It all started around 1897 when Georges Méliès‘ used it in his feature film Carrefour De L’Opera. It wasn’t until 1956 in Walt Disney’s nature film Secrets of Life that time-lapse photography really took hold in modern film and television.
So why do we find time-lapse so captivating? Perhaps in the ever changing fast paced world of instant food, photography, and communication we get to see in seven seconds what might take hours to watch and in some way we have a better understanding of life. For most of us, we may even find it not only interesting but also relaxing.
Certainly time-lapse photography shows us life as we normally would not see it and for the photographer/videographer that is the challenge and its attraction—to try and capture something of beauty, something out of the ordinary.
The risk is that even with all the latest technological gadgetry and advanced camera systems, even with all the pre-planning, practice and setup, when filming nature it all comes down to one thing. Luck. You can reduce some of the risk but getting the right composition, color, subject, timing, motion all rolled into one eye-opening even thought provoking seven seconds, you’ll always be at the mercy of chance.
So how many photographs does it take to make a twelve second clip?
That depends on your objective and what you’re filming. There are no set rules. Only guidelines with some trial and error.
Twelve seconds of people and traffic took 360 individual frames taken in 6 minutes. A cactus flower blooming took 10 hours to film. At one exposure every 30 seconds, the camera took 1,200 images.
While time-lapse photography is one important means to tell a narrative story, it can take us to places unseen and that perhaps is the real art. For the photographer/videographer it keeps us in the present watching, listening to our environment wondering if the time put in will create that one moment of awe and beauty that holds our viewers attention.
Thanks for watching.
For more information on how to shoot time-lapse photography follow Preston Kanak’s extensive tutorial here.