Time-lapse photography is a cinematography technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (aka the frame rate) is much lower that that which will be used to play the sequence back. When you replay this sequence at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and lapsing.
Put simply: We are manipulating time. Objects and events that would normally take minutes, days, hours, or months can be viewed to completion in seconds having been speeded up by factors of tens to millions.
Where did time-lapse photography originate?
Eadweard Muybridge (yes the spelling is correct, see below), a nineteenth-century photographer is often quoted as originating the technique. Cathy Curtis point out that he is famous for three things:
1. his own bizarre spelling of his name
2. his sensational acquittal for the murder of his wife’s lover
3. and his blurry but indisputable photographic proof that Occident, former California Gov. Leland Stanford’s racehorse, galloped by lifting all four feet off the ground.
One of the first uses of time-lapse photography in a feature film was done by Arnold Fanck in his series of work called Bergfilms, including this 1926 film The Holy Mountain.
Probably the most important person to popularize the art wasn’t a photographer at all, at least not at first. In the evenings, after work as a banker John Ott would come home and build and experiment with time-lapse equipment and the growth of plants.
We have come a long way since Occident’s hooves left the ground. Today time-lapse photography has gotten a lot simpler but it certainly is not easy.
I finally delved into this mystifying realm. Just the other day I created my own Time Lapse. I set my camera to take one shot every 5 seconds and let it do so for about 25 minutes. I ended up with 290 images which at 24 frames per second rendered a 12 second video. Check it it out below. I hope you enjoy it!