A busy city that glows with life and activity can be quite an interesting subject to photograph. The movements of human life in and around a city create very dynamic images perfect for urban landscapes or even street photography.
The bright glow of a busy city below a blue night sky is quite a delightful and enticing site altogether. Now imagine capturing all those, all the minute movements that make up the life of the city in the dynamic video. Here are some tips for capturing the beauty of the city through Time-lapse photography.
What is Time-Lapse?
Time-lapse photography is a method of producing rich dynamic video through a multitude of photos taken over a period of time and in precise intervals. By combining the hundreds or even thousands of photos generated by the camera as time passes and capturing the various movements around in front of it, the photographer can produce video clips that perfectly immerse with the environment and capture the movement of the elements in the place, both natural and artificial.
Time-lapse photography can be done at any time of the day, at any location, for as long as there is a movement to be documented and illustrated. May it be to produce clips to show how an urban location begins to glow as the sun sinks into the horizon in a city Time-lapse, or to create and illustrate the story of human movement and city life in urban street photography.
Interesting Subjects in a City Time-lapse
Effective subjects in Time-lapse photos in the city are not specific people or things but, instead, a certain area and activity around it. Instead of capturing the story of a singular subject, Time-lapses deal with capturing the movements that give the location life.
One interesting aspect to capture through Time-lapse is foot traffic. During the rush hours in the city where the people are moving in bulk towards their places of work, so much movement happens in such short periods of time. This can be done through an elevated vantage point that can capture the entirety of a busy pedestrian walk, or even on the ground shooting low angle, intimately capturing all the passing footsteps of people.
Vehicular traffic is another very dynamic subject for Time-lapse photography in the city, with a much faster pace than foot traffic, the movements captured through such scenes can give quite an interesting take on city life. One good idea is to find an elevated vantage point that can fit an entire intersection in the frame.
The stop-and-go movement of vehicles with the alternating changing of traffic lights can create a very compelling and rhythmic movement that can synchronize with the audio that you choose to complement within your video. Alternatively, you can also find a safe spot on the center aisle of a road, focus on a still element and capture the movement of the cars passing it on both sides. This can create a very immersive movement for your documentation of the city.
The movement in and around an entire skyline is also a perfect subject to document. With a wider view of the entire city showing its structures from the smallest houses to the tips of the skyscrapers, letting time pass and documenting how the city stands still as both man-made and natural elements interact with it makes a perfect glimpse into the essence of the place.
Perhaps the most compelling subject to capture around the cityscape would be the weather. Nothing better represents the passing of time and the changing of the environment than the movement of clouds. In Time-lapse photography, the notion of time speeding up towards the transitions is best illustrated by the waves of clouds that go through and above the cityscape.
At any location, any city of any size, the most dynamic and drastic changes in environments happen during the transitions of the night and day. As the bright sunny sky fades into the night, the city takes its time to shine. The same dynamics can be seen during dawn as the still cityscape slowly loses its glow and begins to move rapidly into a pace.
In landscape and cityscape photography, the golden hour and the blue hour are very well known to be opportune times to capture the perfect lighting conditions as the balance in the light environment allows for great colors and contrast. Time-lapse photography takes these and illustrates not just the moments of perfect light but also moments that lead to them and the moments in between.
Transitions can also be found in the intimate details of the city. The pace at which life in the city moves varies greatly with the time of day. From a peaceful early morning with very few feet on the ground to the rapid rush hour where almost every inch is covered by moving people, all the way to the resolution of how human life pauses in the late hours of the night. A photograph captures a short segment of that story of city life and a Time-lapse video develops it into something moving.
Gear Essentials for Time-lapse Photography in the City
1. Camera with Manual Functions
Time-lapse photography can be done with a huge variety of cameras. From the most simple point-and-shoot cameras to the higher-end professional cameras. Some cameras are made to automate the entire shooting and assembly process however, a skilled photographer has a lot more to work with if they can manipulate the camera’s setting to achieve certain effects and that is why most skilled Time-lapse photographers use full-sized professional cameras to create Time-lapse videos.
2. Zoom Lens
Being able to zoom in and out during the entire duration of the shooting sequence can be an added dimension to the movement that your Time-lapse video illustrates. Using a sufficient zoom lens, you can emphasize certain parts of the frame by diving deep into its moving details and progressively zoom out to reveal the entire frame. You can also make use of this to shift from one focus point to another on different parts of the general angle of view.
3. A Stable Tripod or Clamp
Shooting Time-lapse videos obviously takes a long period of time and during that entire duration, the camera has to be kept relatively in one place. Controlled and minute movement can be introduced into the sequence through zooming, panning, and tilting, however, it can only be done through a stable support accessory like a tripod or clamp to keep it in place.
Tripods are essential in any landscape, cityscape, or travel photographer’s arsenal and they are generally usable in the majority of shooting situations. For select scenarios when tripods can not be used, clamps are a common workaround. Clamps latch onto ledges and railing that can be found on rooftops or viewing decks and can be as stable as the surface on which they latch.
Much like landscape photography, Time-lapse photography deals with the extremes of environmental lighting conditions. The moments in between the days are often easy for the camera to record but the beautiful transitions of light often come in high dynamic range situations. Graduated neutral density filters can help your camera be able to perceive the extreme spectrum of light present in the scene to be able to achieve balanced exposures even in the harshly lit moments.
Neutral density filters (ND filters) can also be used to slow down your shutter speed during very bright hours of the day. Sometimes the movement and development of motion blur in any moving elements in the city can be a good visual effect to infuse into your output. This can also help achieve certain textures in moving surfaces like water, grass, or the sky by softening its flow in the sequence.
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
An intervalometer is a device that automatically triggers the camera to take a photo after a set time interval. This device is the workhorse of a Time-lapse photographer. Without the ability to automate the exposures, the creation of a smooth and seamless Time-lapse video is almost impossible.
The MIOPS Smart+ trigger is an enhanced form of an intervalometer. Much like how controlling the camera is essential for a well-planned output, this trigger allows the photographer to create Time-lapse videos exactly as their vision dictates.
Basic Time-lapse Mode
There are several different automated modes available on the MIOPS Smart+. Basic Time-lapse mode allows you to set the interval time and the number of exposures that it will do continuously from 1-9999. Increasing the interval time creates a generally faster-looking video as transitions will take fewer frames in general to happen.
Long Exposure Time-lapse
With this mode, the MIOPS Smart+ gives you an additional parameter to control which is the exposure time (shutter speed) this works best for moments wherein you would like to take long exposures throughout the duration of the sequence. Either when using ND filters during the daytime to render motion blur or soften moving surfaces, or to get well-exposed frames in low-light situations at night. This added control not only allows for better-rendered images but also for optimal image quality in every frame.
Storm Lapse Mode
Storm-lapses are Time-lapse videos created in harsh weather conditions. Specifically, in lightning storms. This mode gives you an additional option of using the light sensor to trigger the exposures instead of just shooting in fixed time intervals.
The MIOPS Smart+ comes with a light sensor on the front that measures the luminosity of the frame. Strong flashes of light, such as the ones created by lightning strikes, trigger the MIOPS Smart+ to start shooting to capture the lightning strike precisely. The sensitivity level can also be customized to determine the intensity of the flash of light it would take to trigger the exposure.
Illustrating the dynamic movement in the city can best be done in many Time-lapse sequences that show the changing environments and the adjusting paces of human life. Time-lapses can be a fun and creative way to achieve impactful transitions in films or to tell an entire story altogether. The MIOPS Smart+ offers solutions to the challenges of shooting very long and specific sequences to allow the photographer to focus on the visual creative process and less on the technicalities.
There is another way to create perfect time-lapses with another MIOPS product. If you want to make a sliding time-lapse video, we advise you to have a MIOPS Slider+. Because Slider+ is the easiest way of creating sliding time-lapse videos. It would definitely be a good choice for you if you are into creating sliding time-lapses. Our new product Slider+ will provide you to shoot great ones.
Watch the New Slider+ video below:
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Thank you for reading! Wishing you all the best.
Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela
Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.
Image Credit: Unsplash