Photons in Motion

Timelapse Photos

Technical Details

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July 21, 2009: Most of the movies here, plus some new ones, are on YouTube. Check 'em out: they load faster and are at the same quality as here.

Observing at San Pedro Martir, Baja, Mexico

I went to the OAN = Observatorio Astronomico Nacional in Baja California, Mexico. (More photos.) Eduardo de la Fuente and I monitored several AGN sources from the 1.5 m telescope. This timelapse shows stars moving across the sky behind the dome, and then from inside the dome. (The combination of QuickTime and iMovie that I used here seems to not compress night-time movies very well, so quality isn't the greatest.)

Movie (10 MB Quicktime)

Asteroid Occultation, Breckenridge

Trina Ruhland, John Bally, and I observed asteroid Julia (~150 km) occulting a 7.6 magnitude star around 3 AM August 13. John has a 14" scope in his roll-off garage-top observatory above Breckenridge. Trina did the calculations, John did the observing, and I ate Oreos.

Quicktime movie (3 MB AVI)

Dental work with Dr. Birnbach

Dr. Mark Birnbach, DMD, performs a routine procedure on my mouth. Angela assists, and Suanne makes a brief cameo.

Small movie (3.5 MB MPEG)

Big movie (19 MB MPEG)

Foot traffic at DIA concourse B.

Small movie (2 MB MPEG)

Big movie (9 MB MPEG)

Climbing at Penitente

Aaron leads Los Hermanos de la Weenie Way at Penitente (S. Colorado). Amy follows. The small painting of the Virgin Mary was put up in the 19th century by a member of the Penitentes (`while hanging in a tire swing suspended from above'), a Catholic sect endorsing self-flagellation. See also Amy's photos.

Movie (6 MB MPEG)

Trapeze Show

The Imperial Flyers of Denver put on their annual hi-flyin' friends + family show. Jackie MC's; Austin, Eric, Bruce, and Jon catch. Shots every 3 seconds.

Small movie (9 MB MPEG)

Big movie (33 MB MPEG)

NB: I am currently playing with several different compression methods. For now, the next few movies here may not work right for MacOS or Windows. They are encoded with MPEG-4, under Linux. Quicktime 6 is supposed to open these properly, but reports indicate that this may not be true. They definitely work fine using mplayer or xine (under Linux). Older movies (past the next five) should be fine for any system. Thanks -- Henry, 13-Sep-2004

Orion and the Moon rising

Orion rises over my neighbor's house, chasing the full moon. 30 sec exposures, taken every minute. (The camera automatically subtracts a dark frame, which removes hot pixels; thermal noise is still pretty significant. However, compressing it into a movie takes out a good deal of the thermal noise!)

Movie (4 MB MPEG)


We play charades in Minnesota at the wedding (more wedding photos...)

Movie (6 MB Quicktime)

Clouds over the Mississipi bluffs

Clouds roil and broil from the Chesley farmhouse near Red Wing, MN.

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Clouds from the plane window

I fly from MSP to DEN (NWA). Well, so be it. The memory card was getting pretty full, so I kept changing the interval as a function of elevation -- longer durations higher up. No one's stopped me for affixing tripods, relays, and suction cups to the plane windows (yet...)

Movie (6 MB Quicktime)

Road trip to Wyoming and Devil's Tower

I put the top down and head for some climbing (see associated photos). Various excursions along the way include a couple of truck stops (cinnamon rolls at Johnson's Corner!) and two really neat Oregon Trail artifacts in southern WY. The still photo at right is a gigantic yacht being driven down Main Street in Lusk (largest town in the emptiest county in the emptiest state -- one traffic light), just before I refueled my vehicle. Both before and after the boat, I became slightly ADD and kept moving the camera to follow a rainbow visible to the east. (The road was pretty straight, but not interstate-straight.)

Movie (16 MB MPEG)

Filing day

A mysterious person enters my office and files papers...

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Dancing Tomatoes

I followed my mom's tomato starts as they were growing in Oregon. Holy cow! They move like crazy. Most of the light came from the clearly-visible fluorescent tube, so why do they move so much? (I spurred them into action a little bit by rotating a plant or two, but this is not most of the motion.) 6 hours.

Movie (4 MB Quicktime)

Bolder Boulder 2004

The 2004 Bolder Boulder 10K race fills the stadium with 40,000 people. Things of note: clouds, the ever-changing video screen, the camera-man on the field in the foreground, and the filling stadium. I would have liked to get the professional runners and the skydivers coming in, but the battery expired (and it was darn cold!). [NB: I shouldn't have left! The high winds were problematic for the sky-divers, with only one of six actually hitting the grass. One landed on a spectator (sending her to the ER), one skidded across the plastic, one landed on the unoccupied metal seats, one landed on a roof several buildings away, and one ended up enmeshed within a Russian Olive tree.] Interestingly, I was engrossed in a fine book for most of the time, and looked up every few minutes. Every time I was surprised at more and more people -- sort of a real-time time-lapse sequence for my brain. I did notice that the three `offical' timeclocks of the event disagreed by up to several seconds. Of the two at the finish line, one was drifting ahead by about 1 second/hour -- not something I would normally notice! 3 hours; shot every 15 seconds.

Movie (13 MB MPEG)

Sleeping with the Brewski

In an effort to see how my sleep patterns changed, I borrowed Brewski for the night, who lovingly complied. (More sleeping movies below. In fact, this one also documents bed #3, which is a combination of the futon and the Tempur-Pedic.)

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Kiwanis Pancake Feed with Violins, Corvallis

Check it out! $5 in Corvallis gets you all-you-can-eat pancakes, syrup, butter, and sausages. (Extra $1 for an omelet.) Meanwhile, JMT's Suzuki violin students play on stage. Note that the newest students leave first, while the advanced ones know all the tunes, so they stay on stage as long as they can. It's kind of like playing musical chairs, except without the element of chance. The violins are preceded by a group of 8-year-olds doing show-tunes, and the high-school band finishes up the evening.

Movie (13 MB MPEG)

Sunday morning pancakes in OR

We dine on pancakes, as is the usual Sunday-morning tradition. JMT can be seen at the beginning working on a memorable memorial talk, and later running back & forth to attend to the needs of the griddle. HLT and Ann head off to do the crossword, while Bill attends to his coffee.

Movie (13 MB MPEG)

Driving to PDX

Ann operates, HLT navigates, HBT observes, while en route to the Portland airport.

Movie (5 MB MPEG)

Clouds from the Broccoli-mobile

As I was driving around, I popped down the top and put up the camera. Midway through the zoom lens unintentionally starts sliding all the way in.

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Bungee at the Dairy

One Tuesday evening session with Darden, JJ, Nancy, Patrick, Kayley, and Miguel. It's all rather unstructured, making the timelapse rather random. Something else with a bit more order (e.g., a ballet) would no doubt appear a good deal more civilized. cf. the Frequent Flyers page.

Big movie (43 MB MPEG)

Small movie (14 MB MPEG)

Game Night

In celebration of the end of November, we play Carcassonne at the home of Al & Amy.

Big movie (13 MB MPEG)

Small movie (4 MB MPEG)

Small & fast movie (1.7 MB MPEG)


Betsy & I play a non-competitive game of Scrabble. (Final score: 256-253.)

Small movie (1 MB MPEG)

Carving Pumpkins

At Tom & Elyn's, October 2003.

Movie (13 MB MPEG)

Henri gets a haircut

The fabulous Lynda chops my bangs, Delilah-style. Kimba, Bruski, and Kris all participate in their own way.

Movie (6.5 MB MPEG)

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey, CA, for the DPS meeting September 2003. Yellowtail and bluefin tuna and a plethora of other creatures swim. The slowest-moving is the large turtle. Unfortunately, all of them move slightly too fast for photographic ideals, but one can adjust one's ideals more easily than one can adjust a fish.

Movie (13 MB MPEG)

Building garden beds

Mara `Stinger' and Elyn `Thorn' build a rockwall for Tuff and Claw. Note the vanity of the cat Kimba from time to time; also see the contrails moving across the sky. The camera's shadow can be seen too. Taken with an IR filter and a fisheye lens. The filter is essentially a bandpass above ~900 nm; I imagine that it is showing more thermal reflection of sunlight, than thermal inertia (e.g., the bright house to the right actually is white -- it's not glowing due to heat). The colors are a function of the various filters in the camera, but I haven't processed them at all. The filter itself looks completely opaque when looking through it naked eye -- everything here is IR.

Movie (8 MB MPEG)


Birmingham, AL, for the DPS meeting October 2002. 2 days. A few things to note:
  • The dim lights on the skyline get lower & lower during the night -- a temperature-dependent refraction thing?
  • The lights in the tall building slowly flicker out at night -- then come on all at one (almost) in the morning. They're turned off by people, but turned on by software.
  • Some traffic bunches up at the traffic light in the center; cars also park under the roadway (but mostly leave at night).
  • At one point, a construction crane comes in (to repair the highway? Change a light?) and then leaves.

Movie (4 MB MPEG)

Big Movie (22 MB MPEG)

DIA, Frontier concourse

Not much to say here, except this one's kind of neat. Note the dozens (hundreds?) of planes that pass by while taxiing on the runway behind (more easily visible in the larger movie, which also runs slower). Several of the foreground planes can be seen moving their stabilizers and so forth -- pre-flight checks? Taken from the walkway between the terminal & concourse A; about an hour long while I was waiting to fly to Portland. Interestingly, 4 days later when I flew back in at the same time of day, the same planes were there in their same locations.

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Big Movie (11 MB MPEG)

DIA, United concourse

Bags being unloaded, then loaded again (with people riding up + down the conveyor in the interim). The plane rises up as being unloaded, and sinks very slightly as it's loaded. The crew comes in the plane about halfway through. Although I would have liked to include the plane departing (for Birmingham), I had to board it first.

Movie (7 MB MPEG)


Highly exciting. Camera points north. I'd thought that the wind in Boulder was always from the west. But no -- this is wild, in that there are distinctly different cloud levels coming from all four directions.

Movie (4 MB MPEG)

Moon rising

Oddly again here, the clouds are not moving to the east but south. After having lived in Boulder for 8 years, I've never once noticed clouds moving anything but eastward.

Movie (2 MB MPEG)

Clouds at night

Movie (1 MB MPEG)


This was the first long sequence I tried. I started taking pictures at 15-second intervals, but changed to 30-second intervals partway through (where the image shifts -- note that the shadows speeed up after this!) since I was running out of space.

Movie (20 MB MPEG)


Here I was planting my morel mushrooms, courtesy of my sister and The mushrooms take several months to grow, and are not recorded here.

Movie (9 MB MPEG)


Water-engorged pepper plants. Watch the leaves rise, and the onions (to the front) straighten up. 15 minutes.

Movie (6 MB MPEG)


Sleeping on futton [sic]. The situation is that these sequences always cost a few sleepless nights, because I had to leave my overhead light on (very low) in order to get enough photons. I wore an eyemask, but still ended up sleeping a bit less soundly than normal. The first few times, something went wrong midway through the night, so I had to redo them.

Movie (2 MB MPEG)

Sleeping again

Sleeping on the Tempur-Pedic bed. In theory I should move around less, but in practice, this isn't entirely seen to be true.

Movie (8 MB MPEG)

Snow Storming

Taken during the March 2003 snow storm (25" in Boulder, 67" at Eldora). It turns out that watching snow fall is far more interesting than watching it melt -- in particular, watching it cascade off things (the trees, cars, powerlines) as it falls. The sky color changes dramatically but most of the colors are nearly what the eye would see: the yellows during the first night are due to sodium lights reflecting off the low clouds, and the blues at dusk are also rather accurate. This was started about 6 hours into the storm, after the first few inches had fallen. I edited out most of the night frames; the sequence is nominally about 100 hours long.

Movie (8 MB MPEG)

Big Movie (33 MB MPEG, and worth it)

Climbing at Paradise

Climbers move on very curved walls. Images taken about every 4 seconds, which is about as fast as the timelapse controller will allow.

Movie (5 MB MPEG)

Constructing Enchiladas

Movie (3 MB MPEG)

Big Movie (9 MB MPEG)

Josh at work

PDT designer Josh works hard at SWRI, designing Cassini observations sequences at Saturn. Around noon, he decides that the best way to do this is to view the timelapse movie of him working the previous day. 10-second intervals.

Movie (12 MB MPEG)

A+P moving, sequence 1/3

Movie (2 MB MPEG)

A+P moving, sequence 2/3

Movie (2 MB MPEG)

A+P moving, sequence 3/3

Movie (4 MB MPEG)

Timelapse Links

Koyaanisqatsi -- One of the most spectacular movies of the Earth and its inhabitants ever made. Lots of timelapse, lots of nice cinematography, but never just for the purpose of a pretty movie. It all serves the goal of viewing the world through the same set of eyes, but running at a different speed.

Solar Max -- A 40-minute IMAX movie about the Sun. It has one spectacular, 24-hr sequence where the camera pans and follows the Sun as it skirts the horizon, crossing over fjords, mountains, and a Norwegian town along the way. Spectacular. As with most IMAX flicks, the narration is a bit heavy-handed and the whole movie really rides on the success of one or two cool shots. But this shot is great, for sure.

Real Universe -- Cool. Astronomical timelapses from Japan & Australia. Check out those 2001 Leonids!

Aurora timelapses -- These are fantastic! (They're apparently stored as Flash movies, which gives quite a bit of flexibility and compression over the MPEG's that I use.)

John Spencer -- Colleague of mine who has done some lovely movies.

Tibor Neszt -- Movies of an beautiful variety of cloud patterns and traffic over (mostly) the same neighborhood in Szeged, Hungary. Taken with a webcam.

Xavier Theoret -- Some neat movies of snails, traffic, and eclipses (not together!)

Andrew Kinsman / -- Professional timelapse maker in Rochester (ex-Kodak engineer, I think). All sorts of wild stuff here -- scientific photography of all kinds, plus a thorough, many-part Timelapse How-to page.

`The Four Seasons' -- Still photograph of an apple orchard in upstate NY by Frderick Charles. 12 months, 50 photos, one image. I saw it as the winner in a Life Magazine photo contest in 1999. I love this, in particular because of its low-tech-ness and the fact that he's able to put more information content in one image than any of my movies do in 1000.

My Ivory Cellar -- Out-of-print book (~1960) by John Ott, who spent his life building an extraordinary garage full of lights, plants, movie cameras, and motors to follow the lives of flowers, vegetables, and cancer cells. A lot of his sequences were used in Disney nature movies from the 50's. Amazing stuff. The book is more memoir and science than technology. -- A stock video house with lots of nice movies.

Canon TC-80N3 -- Inexpensive and very flexible timelapse controller which I use. Just buy this one and forget about anything else. Pinouts are for Canon EOS but you can chop off their connector and attach it to anything else with a three-pin input very easily.

Mumford Micro -- Maker of the Time Machine.

Harbortronics -- Maker of the Digisnap. -- A homebrew intervalometer (in French). It's designed for the Minolta A1, but would work on anything with a simple two- or three-wire external shutter control.

Shutter release -- Another low-tech shutter release timer that will work on any generic camera.

Technical Details
Henry Throop, Southwest Research Institute

Last modified 21-Jul-2009