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News Time-Lapse Trends: cities around the world

15 November 2018 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 city: a place full of possibility, opportunity and awe-inspiring architecture. Cities around the world are exciting places to explore – especially with a camera.

The bustle of the metropolis presents many creative opportunities for a time-lapse photographer.

Cities are going through constant changes from day to night; the setting of the sun, encouraging all the city’s lights to illuminate, can completely transform our perspective of that place.

Night-time time-lapse

Michael Shainblum’s work is really a homage to the metropolis at night. Using exquisite 4K time-lapse coupled with smooth camera moves, this sequence captures cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, San Diego and Chicago in their element under a darkened sky.

As Shainblum’s work also shows, time-lapse photography works extremely well with artificial light. Certain shutter speeds are able to capture stunning light paths – something that there is plenty of in any city at night. The careful editing in this time-lapse video perfectly encapsulates the spectacle of such scenes, as if the whirling paths of light are actually responding to the music.

Shainblum has also utilised aerial photography and video to capture this amazing birds-eye-view of Los Angeles.

Urban growth

As well as capturing the spectacle of the world’s biggest cityscapes, time-lapse photography has also been put to use to better visualise this on a macro level.


Google often create time-lapse videos of Earth, documenting environmental change on a global scale. The above sequence, for example, is an astonishing look at the rate of urban growth across the world in the last couple of decades alone.

Focusing on some of the world’s most prominent cities, such as Las Vegas and Dubai, the rate of expansion in these urban jungles is incredible.

Whereas Shainblum’s time-lapse work hones in on the splendour of these individual cities, Google’s video shows the complete opposite end of the scale. Pulling back the lens encourages a humbling and perhaps more reflective perspective of city life.

Abstract perspectives

Although cityscapes are an increasingly popular subject for time-lapse capture, not all this work is the same.

Each individual photographer may explore a city from a different perspective with the aid of different, yet associative, techniques.

This time-lapse video of New York from Kyoung Sop Choi incorporates hyperlapse, a technique within time-lapse photography, involving camera movement during capture. The complex motion paths and angle changes work to create quite an abstract view of this iconic city.

Another technique to offer an abstract perspective of a city is tilt-shift. The city from above is a common approach adopted by photographers but the addition of tilt-shift encourages us to see things differently.

‘Elevated’ by PrimoMedia uses a tilt-shift lens (as opposed to creating the effect in post-production), showing Chicago as the ‘Tiny City’ as opposed to its more familiar nickname, the ‘Windy City’. The juxtaposing of real-life city sound – such as boats going by and cars beeping their horns – with an immersive soundtrack has the effect of pulling you in to the very fabric of this city.

Finally, we feature another rather abstract way of time-lapsing a city: using 360-degree video. ‘A Portland Time Lapse’ (below) by Callie Schneider creates the look of a ‘MiniPlanet’ using this technique.


These immersive videos are most typically achieved by using an omnidirectional camera, or a collection of cameras, so as to create a view from every angle.

Coupled with the effects of time-lapse photography here, the Portland cityscape appears as an entirely separate entity.


Time-lapse photography is a very versatile medium so a popular subject such as cities around the world do not all have to be the same. Along with other associated techniques too, we can see the same city over and over but as if through completely different eyes each time.

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