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Yellow traffic light sign on green in front of blue skies.

News Time-Lapse Trends: traffic

24 April 2019 Kate

“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.

The technique of time-lapse photography is often applied to capture the movements of traffic.

The interconnectedness of vehicles moving along busy roads, trailing light patterns and the general hustle and bustle of city life can be brought to you in a dynamic way via time-lapse videos.

It is the smooth impression of motion which time-lapse is able to produce that can emphasise and help to invigorate something as ordinary and everyday as the coming and going of traffic.

Time-lapsing traffic flow around the world

Of course, different countries have different rules of the road and so time-lapse is a means to document the same subject in various contexts across the world. What is part of our everyday is not necessarily what others may be accustomed to.

In India, for example, road flow does not rely on signs or lights; their traffic signals rely on noise and a driver’s awareness. The incredible time-lapse (below) shows busy city centres in India, with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles travelling in extremely close contact with each other.


Here, the speed provided by time-lapse intensifies the seeming “organised chaos” in this context but, perhaps more strikingly, demonstrates the skill, awareness and patience of both pedestrian and driver.

Capital cities are classic settings for this kind of time-lapse because of their capacity and energy.

The traffic in this cityscape time-lapse video from Awhelin shows Seoul, capital of South Korea, from a series of camera angles and aerial positions. The lights and the crowds help to reflect the constant pulse of the city, come day or night.

Although it depends on the frequency of intervals and other key settings of your time-lapse camera that will help garner the best results when capturing an urban setting, picking the best location is also an important factor.

Working from an aerial perspective allows for more  than when capturing at street level. Shooting from above allows you the freedom to time-lapse a wide open scene, maybe featuring a large crossroads or a snaking spaghetti junction.

Other time-lapse takes on traffic

But not all good time-lapses are planned to perfection – or even planned at all! “Celestial Traffic” by HR Lai was the result of some accidental out of focus filming one night when out taking a break from time-lapsing traffic.

The incredible bokeh effect that is captured here gives an everyday subject an abstract perspective.

Time-lapse can be used alongside other photography techniques to diversify any kind of narrative. This popular video, which has featured on our blog before, incorporates tilt-shift and layer-lapse in its depiction of a different kind of traffic: that which is in the air above Haneda Airport.

Another way of enhancing the scope of a time-lapse video, layer-lapse threads different layers of footage on top of each other, which creates the multiple eye-catching light trails from the planes at Haneda Airport.

Pulling back the lens, time-lapse can also be applied to capture air traffic on a much larger scale.


In the above time-lapse video, 24 hours of daily air traffic over Europe can be seen in just under two minutes.

It is quite staggering viewing these flight paths move so quickly and helps to emphasise just how highly populated the skies above us are. This is another example of how time-lapse can alter the way that we perceive certain things.


Even the most everyday and ordinary of things, such as traffic flow in a busy city, can be made into a visual spectacle.

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