The prospect of condensing time into smaller, more manageable chunks continues to fascinate and be put to use in numerous ways. But this is not the only advantage of long-term time-lapse capture, as we explore in this blog.
Recent innovations to modern camera technologies have brought a different meaning to long-term time-lapse capture.
Joe DiGiovanna has created a bespoke camera set-up which allows him to capture the New York skyline directly from his apartment in New Jersey. Having already time-lapsed over four years of footage at 30-second intervals – which has amounted to over 4 million images so far – DiGiovanna plans to continue shooting for 30 years in total (or maybe longer if his equipment will allow for it!)
As this project demonstrates, time-lapse married together with the ingenuity of the photographer holds incredible possibilities; it provides a unique lens through which to view the world in all of its variety and specificity.
DiGiovanna notes how the sun picks a different building each night to shine on as it disappears behind the Manhattan skyline. It is this level of detail which can be harvested from a long-term time-lapse sequence.
Advantages of long-term capture
To see how things change over the course of several weeks, months, or even years is a major advantage of sustained time-lapse capture. This is not only useful for the likes of filmmakers such as DiGiovanna but can be put to work in various other sectors.
Projects involving works where any noticeable progress is slow, such as the construction of a new city venue, or the demolition of an old train depot, are the ideal subjects for time-lapse. Collating months of work into a short, fast-paced sequence is what the technique does best.
From a vantage point overlooking a construction site in its entirety, with an exciting cityscape as a backdrop (as in the above time-lapse video), you can get a sense of how the project fits within its wider context as it develops.
While a final time-lapse sequence is the culmination of a project from start to finish, this is not the only advantage which long-term capture provides.
Going back to DiGiovanna’s epic time-lapse, although his project is long-term in terms of his ultimate goal, the filmmaker uses his images to edit together short-term time-lapse videos of sunsets, sunrises, particular days and special events, which he then shares on his Instagram account.
These intervening edits help to draw attention to the smaller details of the subject being captured. As well as visualising the long-term continuity involved in the cycle of day and night in Manhattan, DiGiovanna’s long-term time-lapse brings particular events into focus.
Inspired by comments on his Instagram posts, he envisions a website for his project which includes a chronological timeline of his time-lapse images, so that people can then comment on a particular date and time with significant events that were or are happening in their lives.
As well as the personal, DiGiovanna’s project also speaks on broader levels, like the time that his camera caught an electrical blackout in July 2019 which left part of Manhattan in complete darkness.
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Watching the lights come on after yesterday’s blackout. ?? It was still very light outside when the blackout started so here is my TimeLapse from sunset until all the buildings had power restored. This is my favorite song by @youthinaromanfield “When The City Goes Quiet” from their album Storm Conductor. @best_timelapse #best_timelapse @sonyalpha #bealpha #sonya7s
This footage was broadcast on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan the morning after, functioning as an amazing documentation of this rare and extraordinary event. The regularity of the images provided by the camera capturing a long-term project can therefore be utilised for short-term, more immediate purposes.
This can be put to use effectively in other contexts, such as construction and infrastructural developments, where regular progress updates are essential to everyday workflow.
On sites which may be difficult or, indeed, dangerous to access, the live view of a time-lapse camera system means that monitoring can easily be carried out remotely.
A professional time-lapse company will provide you with the visual tools to view the job in full, which includes an online archive of timestamped images. This is populated by live images of site which grown and change with your project so that contractors and other workers can be vigilant about progress being made.
So filmmakers are engineering their own applications, while professional time-lapse companies are providing consistent visual tools for a myriad of work places. Both creatively and professionally, then, long-term time-lapse capture comes with many benefits and advantages.