Wispy clouds gently fly past the viewer, thousands of stars rotate in the night skyoverhead, and the sun rapidly falls below the horizon revealing the stars in the dusky sky.Einstein wrote that time is relative and we have come to expect events to occur atspecified rates. However, through the magic of time-lapse photography, flowers can bloom and die in mere seconds, shadows can race across mountainous landscapes, andcity traffic streaks through city highways.Surely you have seen amazing time-lapse sequences in nature films, on YouTube andVimeo and even in commercial films. Speeding up the rate at which some events occur will often reveal details that would not be obvious when seen at their normal rate.Manipulation of time to see events that are not apparent to the unaided eye include high-speed video to slow down rapidly occurring events and time-lapse photography to speedup events which can occur over minutes, hours, or even days and weeks! High-speedvideo requires specialized equipment that is rather expensive. Remarkably, time-lapse photography doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment and most digital cameras arecapable of creating these images. Since the images are composed of separate still images,video capability isn’t necessary.In fact, the very minimum requirements are a digital camera, a steady tripod and lots andlots of patience! Also recommended is a trigger release although you can just press theshutter button repeatedly. Just bear in mind that your final video will be determined byyour ability to sit and repeatedly trip the shutter!More advanced users will want to use automated intervalometers and perhaps evenautomated camera sliders or motorized heads. Many of these items can be fairlyinexpensive and will ensure that you don’t end up going crazy or develop some form of repetitive strain injuries by pressing a camera trigger every few seconds for hours at atime!
Motion pictures and video normally are projected at a rate between 24 and 30 frames per second (films are 24, video is 30 fps in the USA and 25 fps in many European countries).Let’s use 24 frames per second to illustrate. That means for every second of screen time,there are 24 individual frames that are sequentially displayed to produce the illusion of motion. The frames per second are the same for capture and playback so the motionappears normal to us.However, imagine if you took a frame every minute for 24 minutes and then projectedthem back at the normal rate of 24 fps. Those 24 minutes would flash by in a second of screen time. This is the basis of time lapse. The photographer captures individual framesover an extended period of time, which are played back at their regular rate and suddenlya world of gradually occurring events is magically transformed into something amazing.It allows us to “see” events that normally occur so slowly that we may not even be awareof the motion.