Time-Lapse Trends: cloud formations

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

There is something about watching the movement of clouds that can keep you enraptured. Watching this subject rendered through time-lapse video is no exception.

Perhaps clouds are so fascinating to watch because the time-accelerated flow that you get from time-lapse is able to compliment their shapeshifting movements.

And, perhaps just for this brief period of time, it’s because they are so scarce across the country.


As Julian Tryba shows with ‘House of Clouds’, speeding up these movements make them appear effervescent and more like plumes of smoke. Much of this time-lapse was recorded at Haleakalā – a 10,000 ft dormant volcano – which is ideal for capturing clouds because of the fluctuating climate.

Additionally, music can help to evoke the epic nature of this visual display and build a narrative around it.

Fascinating formations

As well as being fascinating to watch, time-lapse videos can also be a valuable way of studying particular formations of cloud movement.

There are over 90 recorded types of cloud combination which are classified depending on their ‘tropospheric genera’ and their physical forms.

Jonathan Harvey’s time-lapse video records the movements of a lenticular cloud formation at the Bear River Range on the east side of the Cache Valley, near Logan, Utah. His video is also accompanied with a scientific explanation for such a formation. The lenticular cloud is particularly interesting as it remains relatively stationary due to the ways in which the wind and water vapour interact when they encounter linear barriers such as mountain ranges.

Time-lapse exaggerates the movement of the mobile cloud formations in the sky, which makes the lenticular more identifiable. This is an excellent example of how this photographic technique can isolate elements of the natural world in a way that the human eye cannot so that such things can be studied in more detail.

Another example of time-lapse being used in this way is this capture of noctilucent clouds in Scotland, which consist of ice particles that are only visible during astronomical twilight. If you didn’t know these were clouds, you would perhaps mistake them for ripples on water.

Even without knowing such technical terms, though, time-lapse invites you to become absorbed in cloud movements. Billowing build-ups and smooth blanket-like flows, which there is an abundance of in the below time-lapse video by Stefano Cantù, are just enough to make a compelling visual narrative.


Other creative renderings

As we have often given testament to on this blog – and with our own work, of course – time-lapse leaves much room for creativity. Professional time-lapse camera systems are equipped to capture in varied ways.

Certain post-production techniques can also be put into practice to dazzling effect. Jay Thorne uses a kaleidoscopic technique and a black and white filter in his time-lapse in order to produce this dynamic cloud narrative. Indeed, with time-lapse, no two ways of telling a story rarely appear the same.

The position of the camera relative to the subject can also be key to the finished product. Take this short video by Holger B. Frick, who manages to capture clouds “attacking” the camera! The camera is in the perfect position to capture low-hanging clouds as they move through the valley.

Similarly María Arango captures cloud ‘eating’ the mountainous city of Manizales, Colombia.

The possibilities are endless when a natural subject as inspiring as the weather is combined with a versatile medium like time-lapse photography. This small selection of time-lapse videos are merely a drop in the ocean of what is made available by professionals and budding amateurs on the Internet. See what you can find.

For other content like this, see one of our previous “Time-Lapse Trends” on weather.

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