The title of this article may have some readers scratching their heads. After all, time lapse videos are about motion, so how can you possibly expect to crate something cool if you're shooting a stationary object? Interestingly, though, there are ways to make even static subjects work very well for time lapse videos. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and some creative camera work in one or more ways. Let's explore some of the possibilities.
What's happening around or to a subject over time can be extremely interesting. This is particularly noticeable in outdoor settings, whether urban or rural. Depending on the properties of the subject, changes in the light falling on it, the weather or the scenery around it can create interesting effects in time lapse videos. The properties of the subject itself can make a tremendous difference. Here are a few examples:
Architecture and nature both offer opportunities to see the world in a whole new light by paying attention to the reflections on the surface of an object. The changes in the sky above a lake, the sunset reflected on the face of a city skyline, or better yet, on the surface of something spherical and shiny are only a few examples of great opportunities for recording time lapse sequences.
Here's a great example, shot by Jim Davidson, of Chicago's famous Cloud Gate sculpture over a 90-minute period during sunset.
Things that Decompose
That may sound really gross and for the most part, it probably is. Nevertheless, you'll find many fascinating time lapse videos of everyday things decomposing under different conditions. One that comes to mind is a video I watched of an animal carcass in a wire enclosure on the ocean floor. It was a great insight into how many creatures help speed the decomposition of organic matter in that environment. While that example might be a little extreme, there are plenty of videos available that show rotting vegetables and other things that may or may not be fascinating, depending on your interests and gag reflex.
Don't you just love big words? Heliotropism is the tendency that many flowers and even leaves have to move in response to the direction of the sun. While these subjects aren't really static, they appear to be unless you take the time to observe them over a long period of time. They're an easy subject that you can find almost anywhere.
Creating the Motion with Your Camera
The examples above are only a few of many subjects for time lapse videography and I'm sure that most readers are already coming up with some ideas of their own. Another alternative, however – and my personal favorite – is to use controlled camera motion to create the dynamics in a sequence. This can be used on its own or in conjunction with any of those subjects above as well as similar ones.
There are a few ways to accomplish this, but the most predictable are through the use of a motion slider or camera dolly. Either one is actually quite easy to use and I recommend checking out the gear available at Revolve Camera for very high-quality, intelligently-engineered motion equipment at a price that even a hobbyist can afford.
Those examples above are only a few to help you start thinking along the lines of how static subjects can be used to create great time lapse videos. If you examine the list, you'll note that many of these ideas will require a very long overall shooting session. There are a few things you need to plan for in those cases.
Fresh batteries for your camera and shutter timer and a clean, high-capacity memory card are going to be an absolute necessity. Also, you're going to need to consider keeping your equipment safe. That's probably going to mean having something to pass the time while you wait for the shoot to finish. Plan your shoots well, with the safety of your equipment and yourself in mind.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to choosing subjects for your time lapse videos. The fact that something doesn't move, or moves slowly, doesn't mean you can't make an great video of it.