Remember the 1960 flick “The Time Machine”? I loved the scene when the machine traveled through time, unchanged, while all around it changed dramatically; civilizations rising and collapsing, even mountains rising and eroding away. It intrigued me as a kid, but it was also a bit scary.
I think photography allows a sort of time travel. You not only can capture a single moment of time, but you can—to an extent—determine the length of that moment. High-speed photography can stop a bullet in mid air, while long exposures can stretch things out, making a waterfall appear all smooth and creamy.
Another sort of long-exposure photography is the timelapse, allowing you to view days, weeks, or longer compressed into just a few minutes. The concept is simple: a camera is set to a timer (called an intervalometer) that triggers the camera to take a photo at preset intervals, like say every 30 seconds or so; some cameras even have built-in intervalometers. After a time, the hundreds or even many thousands of images are arranged sequentially to create what is really a movie in fast time.
I’ve been experimenting with timelapse lately. It’s challenging and a lot of fun. The above mushroom fruiting timelapse was a bit of a surprise. I had originally placed some wood chips in a box with the pupa of a beetle I hoped would mature to adulthood, but unfortunately died. However, the damp wood chips produced mushrooms. When I saw them, I immediately set up an impromptu timelapse studio, and while far from perfect, I at least managed to capture the mushroom opening its cap.
Now, what other phenomena shall we compress into mere minutes?