Timelapse photography had been trending for a while, but with the emergence of 4K video, it has found a new meaning for itself.

The maximum pixel dimension of HD video is 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is much less than what modern DSLR cameras are capable of. So while photographers are able to shoot stills with 20+ megapixel resolution, when switching to video mode, they are using only a fraction of their sensor’s power.

In comes 4K. The new video standard features resolutions of up to 4096 x 2160 pixels. Of course, this is so new that very few cameras support it yet, let alone players. But make no mistake about it, 4K will catch on and impose itself as the new industry standard,  fast.

So photographers are actually among the first to output 4K footage, through the use of timelapse photography. In essence, a series of hundreds or thousands of shots are taken at intervals ranging from a second to minutes, and compiled together as mere frames in a video sequence. This allows the use of full resolution images, effectively achieving 4K quality.

George Washington Bridge from the park

I am taking baby steps in that direction, carefully preventing the whole thing from going to my head, for various reasons. First, this is all incredibly time-consuming. Second, the amount of hard drive space required to stock the many thousands of images needed for even a short film is staggering. Third, while modern DSLR’s have extremely high shutter life expectancy (in the range of 100,000 actuations), one realizes that shooting timelapses can eat that lifespan in no time.

The clip below was recorded with a 12 megapixel GoPro Hero3+ mounted on a rotating timer. The shoot took a bit over 10 minutes and I recorded almost 700 still images to create this 23 second-long clip at 30 fps. Extrapolating on this, it would take around one hour of timelapse-created footage to kill my shutter or at least go beyond its rating!


Now, the clip below is not 4K. Vimeo typically renders its content in 720 HD quality, but I have intentionally kept it in full 1080 HD for testing purposes, so playing might be a bit choppy if your connection is slow.

Obviously, the epiphany of timelapse photography lies in sunsets, cloud movements and star trails. None of which I can achieve from Harlem. Oh well, I can use some practice, so I will settle for the urban shots.

This is a rough edit, no sound and very little post-production, just as a test and work in progress. Lesson number one, my mini gorillapod isn’t steady enough on a circular railing… Lesson number two, even though I knew it, clouds are a timelapse photographer’s best friends. I cannot wait to be in Cape Town again and tackle the table cloth!


Timelapse of the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge in the background
For those of you reading me via the Feedburner RSS feed, here is a link to the video on Vimeo, as the above won’t work because of my own player’s embed code.

Then below are a few photos of our walk through the City College of New York (CCNY) campus, which we had never visited. A weird mix of ultra-modern concrete and old stones.