Cities of Light

Cities of light – L.A., San Francisco, and New York, through marvelous time-lapse photography, for a visual interlude of beauty and tranquility…

First, a couple GIFs and then the bigger clips. New York at night:

gif of time-lapse phtography of New York lit up at night

Paris at night:

gif of time-lapse phtography of Paris at night with the moon


Now, the bigger movie clips; first of L.A., LA Light, by Colin Rich:


And the sequel from the same creator, Colin Rich, Nightfall, with commentary below:

NightFall from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

Music: M83, “Echoes of Mine” off of ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.’ Available from Mute Records, EMI Music. Download the song/album here here:

Cinematography, Direction, and Editing by: Colin Rich:
Produced by Pacific Star Productions

A big thanks to Matthews MSE ( especially to Bob Kulesh, Tyler & Ed Phillips for their generous support and patience of this lengthy endeavor. Most of the linear motion control shots were captured using their FloatCam DC Slider, a wonderful piece of engineering for the time lapse world.

‘Nightfall’ is a three minute tour of light through the City of Angels.

I shot “Nightfall” in an attempt to capture Los Angeles as it transitioned from day to night. As you probably know, LA is an expansive city so shooting it from many different angles was critical. Usually I was able to capture just one shot per day with a lot of driving, exploring, and scouting in between but the times sitting in traffic or a “sketchy” neighborhood often lead to new adventures and interesting places.

Nightfall in particular is my favorite time to shoot time lapse. Capturing the transition from day to night while looking back at the city as the purple shadow of Earth envelopes the eastern skyline and the warm distant twinkling halogen lights spark to life and give the fading sun a run for her money- this will never grow old or boring to me.

In this piece, it was important to me for the shots to both capture and accentuate the movement of light through the day and night and the use of multiple motion control techniques allowed me to do so.

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

An English translation of the lyrics-

“It is late. I am looking for my other home, taking an unfamiliar path: a small trail near the factories and the city, cutting through the forest. I can barely see nature when suddenly, night falls. I am engulfed by a world of silence, yet I am not afraid. I fall asleep for a few minutes at the most, and when I wake up, the sun is there and the forest is shining with a bright light.

I recognize this forest. It is not an ordinary forest, it is a forest of memories. My memories. The white and noisy river, my adolescence. The tall trees, the men I have loved. The birds in flight, and in the distance, my lost father.

My memories aren’t memories anymore. They are there, with me, dancing and embracing, singing and smiling at me.

I look at my hands. I caress my face, and I am 20 years old. And I love like I have never loved before.”


Next, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco:

Golden Gate Bridge from Omni-Tracker on Vimeo.


And New York, The Manhattan Project HD1080P, by Cameron Michael:

The Manhattan Project HD1080P from Cameron Michael on Vimeo.

This time-lapse production has been a wild and exhilarating ride, with a lot of physical work lugging my 120-130 pounds of gear around all of Manhattan. I bent (broke) some laws and made a ton of friends. Thank you all for your support and please feel free to help out a starving artist and share this video with the world.
Music Provided by: BLACKMILL ; ; Support by:

And, of course, we can’t really use the phrase “City of Light” without going to Paris, Paris Vol. 5, by The Seventh Movement with extensive creators’ commentary below for insight into their artistic process:

Paris Vol. 5 from The Seventh Movement on Vimeo.

Entry from July 27, 2009 “We are jet-lagged and exhausted. The alarm blared at 4:30 am. Without opening my eyes I hit the snooze. “Just five more minutes” I told myself… “Lets go dude” a groggy voice commanded from the background. I didn’t move. Out of nowhere, a pillow slammed down on my head, the mattress is lifted out from under me, and I hit the hardwood floor just missing my camera bag. “Ugh not again” I thought, but I knew he was right, we needed to hustle across the city and get our cameras rolling before sunrise. ”

We were in Paris with only a week to shoot. Armed with top of the line cameras, fresh batteries, memory card wallets, and our favorite glass. The game-plan was to shoot as much as possible and to motivate each other when we were exhausted from staring down the viewfinder. Time-lapses were just an afterthought. Seen a couple. Heard a bit on what it takes to get one done. But when we stepped off the plane in Paris, we had never seen the sky as beautiful as it was. Some twenty two hours later, we slept…at least tried to…

We had never shot a time-lapse before, we had never put one together. We were just two guys who came to Paris to photograph. To make beautiful images. And we did. And we didn’t stop. It became a battle against our batteries. ” Why take one when you can take one-thousand” we’d laugh. Sometimes staying at a spot all day. Biking or walking from place to place. Mispronouncing words we didn’t know. Two more packs of Camel’s gone. We shot and shot and uploaded wherever we were. Even ran through the terabyte we brought with us and had to buy another one at Rue Montgalet ( nightmare ). Fell asleep on the Alexander III bridge while the clicks of our camera shutters became an urban lullaby.

Wandering around the streets of Paris armed with $20,000 in gear, we took Paris head on.

Its a scary feeling when you burn through a 32 gigabyte card before the day is done. You don’t see what you’re shooting. You compose the first frame and let your subject do the rest. We would wait for that perfect set of clouds or that perfect flare or trail from a plane. And all the while we didn’t know what the final product would look like. We were shooting blind. But we wouldn’t have had it any other way. The unknown kept us moving. Kept us thinking about what could happen when we return. Kept us thinking about what all these different pieces might say in the end.

Changing glass as much as we did, we didn’t factor in the amount of sensor dust that would build up. We could never just shoot something once, from one angle, without doing brackets and panoramic builds. It became an obsession. And our shutters paid the price. Back home, it took weeks to get organized. Then it took months working between all these side projects, our main gig at, and the Paris project. Just beginning to think about what we would do with all the clips became overwhelming. There wasn’t an obvious flow. There didn’t seem to be a complete overall puzzle that could even be constructed with the pieces we had. And the pieces were in pieces.

We started building each clip in After Effects. Render. Smoke. Chill. Re-Render. Smoke. Chill. We built around 150 clips out of the time-lapses we shot in Paris. They were flickery, noisy, grainy, bandy but they were ours. And we spent more time trying to fix them than we ever imagined. They were the first of the series. And from a single Clint Mansell song from “The Wrestler” sparked a vision for the Volumes. And once we put the first ones on Vimeo, we knew we had something going. We built the second one with a Tycho song. The third from Flying Lotus. The fourth from Pelican City. And after the fourth volume was built, we saw all these comments about the sensor dust. And THAT ate away at us.

So we started from scratch; as if we had just hoped off the plane from Paris. Reorganize, re-edit, recolor, re-render. Days and days of work. Going through entire albums trying to find that one song that would go perfectly with all the clips strung together. But we didn’t know how they would all hold together. There was no obvious order again. And we didn’t think we could fill the twenty volume quota that we had promised to our fans. So we settled on doing a Director’s Cut. A montage of all of the clips: Paris Volume 5.

Enter Pigeon Point. We had been shooting a new series called the California Coastline. And we went to Pigeon Point down in Santa Cruz with our friend Matt. At first it didn’t seem like a prime spot for time-lapses. But Matt didn’t tell us the most amazing thing about Pigeon Point. They installed a new temporary 6-beam setup while the main lighthouse wasn’t operational. We shot through the night, edited the next day, and posted on Monday. While we were editing, Mogwai popped into the playlist. To be honest we never sat down and listened to Mogwai with our work but it turned out that Friend of the Night fit that piece like a glove. And so we chose 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong for the first part of Volume 5. And we chose Explosions in the Sky, First Breath After Coma for the last part of the volume. It was perfect.

We knew what we did best….Own a spot. Literally shoot the shit out of it. We learned a lot since Paris and shot a ton of other projects since we returned. The constant was a pattern. A style, a flow, a complete piece each in its own right. And we laid down the tracks, and then each clip, piece by piece. We cut and recut and re-rendered and fill gaps and cut tighter and sharper. We began to complete the puzzle. And it became what you see before you.

Enjoy it. Its been a long time coming but we think the wait is well worth it.

Thom & Vin

Mogwai – 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
Explosions in the Sky – First Breath After Coma

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One thought on “Cities of Light

  1. TemptingSweets99 says:

    I looked at the NY vid. Awesome! Will return to look at the rest.