TIMELAPSE VIDEOS have become practically ubiquitous on the internet — one of the video blogs I follow even has a “Daily Timelapse” — because there are just that many of them. There are dozens online for every major city, World Heritage site, and natural phenomena.
Timelapse videos are made by taking photos over time at regular intervals — seconds, minutes, hours, or even days — and then splicing them together, back to back. When viewed like this, it gives the illusion that you’re watching the accelerated passage of time, which is particularly awesome when it’s focused on a public square, or a star-filled sky.
Since so much of travel is about taking time and waiting, timelapses are an incredibly effective way to portray travel. Here are the best I’ve ever seen.
From the International Space Station
This is my all-time favorite. It was taken by members of the International Space Station in 2011 and uses a special low-light camera to be able to capture all of the insane images here. The coolest features are the timelapses of the Northern Lights. This is a pretty popular phenomena to capture via timelapse, and if you search for them, you’ll find a ton out there. But you never really get to see the lights from above, and the motion of the space station gives them a three-dimensional feel. Check out the original Vimeo page for the lists of locations shown.
In the Alps and Pyrenees
Another popular subject of timelapses are clouds and stars. For clouds, it’s because you can only see through timelapse their fluidity and motion — you get a little bit bored watching them in person — and with the stars, it’s because you can actually see them move as Earth spins. This video by Cristián Aguirre focuses on twilight, and that puts it above a lot of the other videos like this. It’s mostly shot in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
London at Christmas
My favorite city is London, and my favorite time in London is Christmas, so this one was a shoo-in. That said, it does do an excellent job of capturing the human element of these sites, which is unusual for timelapses: the busker on his unicycle, the shoppers at the markets.
Around the world
This one is crazy because, for the most part, it doesn’t attempt to catch naturally slow processes — its subject is mostly people in various tourist spots from this 17-country around-the-world trip. But it still works incredibly well.
Rio is the perfect timelapse city. End of story.
For this one, creator Michael Shainblum took regular timelapses from several major American cities — Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and San Diego — and then mirrored them, giving this a crazy, trippy, kaleidoscopic feel. It looks like Blade Runner on acid, and it’s absolutely transfixing.
In terms of quality of filmmaking, I think this one tops my list. Shanghai is another city that’s naturally suited to the timelapse, but what makes this video stand out is the frenetic motion, the crazy following of a subject and then zooming in and out, all while in timelapse — and, of course, its awesome synchronization to the music. This is incredible.
This is the third in a series of various timelapsed landscapes by photographer Dustin Farrell. All three are great, and you should watch them if you can, but this is my favorite.
I know this one slightly bends the rules of these being travel timelapses, but you can only watch so many night skies, right? Besides, what’s travel without art?
We might be slightly biased on this one, seeing as Matador arranged its creation as part of Visit California’s Dream365 project. But in our defense: This video is absolutely amazing, and Yosemite is another one of those spots that is naturally perfect for a timelapse.