"Time lapse is a beautiful combination of still photography and film­making. Time lapse shows the world in a state of altered reality. You can see how the world around you behaves in a way you cannot see with the naked eye. Time lapse is like magic," says Al Jazeera's Richard Bentley.

As part of Metropolis: A Time Lapse Perspectivewe share his photographic exploration of two global megacities.


Atom Lapse 

I'd travelled to Belgium a few times but had only seen The Atomium on posters at the airport. It seemed like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it proved to be just about as hard to reach as something in space, at least from a photographer's point of view, because the image of The Atomium is copyrighted by the estate of its designer, engineer Andre Waterkeyn.

Time lapse is like magic. It's incredible when you start to process the images.

I approached the marketing team at The Atomium and showed them some of my work, and they agreed to give me unlimited access. I was thrilled. But I only had three evenings and one weekend in which to shoot the time lapses. During the day, one really needs clouds and definition in the skies when shooting upwards. But the Saturday I was there was the hottest day on record in Belgium; great for sampling ice cream, not so good for time lapse. So I concentrated on the inside shots of visitors and the installations.

On the Sunday, I awoke to fluffy white clouds. It was time to get moving. I only had one day to pull off the hardest shot, the opening shot, or 'hyperlapse'.

With warm weather and the weekend come tourists, and I was trying to ask Russians, Belgians, Germans, Italians and Chinese if they wouldn't mind stepping to one side as I hauled myself and my tripod and camera gear 300 moves at 30cm intervals over the lawn leading to The Atomium. It was tough. Really tough. It was like doing yoga and playing musical statues on an extremely hot day. I needed an ice cream after that one.

Security opened a special ladder system for me, which is usually reserved for emergency escape from The Atomium. It is where the second shot is from. I spent about three hours up there. I'd only intended to spend two hours, but the gate to the stairs had been locked behind me and I couldn't get anyone's attention to let me down again. I was starting to get a little worried. When I finally decided to climb over the gate, I discovered that the padlock was just hanging loose and I hadn't been trapped up there after all.

Dubai in black and white

This is the fourth time lapse I've made of Dubai and I wanted to try something a little different.

Dubai has some great rooftop bars to shoot from, although many have now banned tripods, which are a must for most time lapse work.

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Through friends and contacts, I was able to access some excellent locations. Height is key to megacity time lapses, and something I'm yet to achieve fully here in Qatar.

I shot every night on a two week, then on a subsequent three week trip to Dubai, producing about 15,000 still images. What people don't always realise is that to get what one might term 'professional' images, one needs to shoot in 'RAW' stills. True time lapse is not sped up video.

Shooting every night in a climate like Dubai's, whilst carrying camera gear, on foot, is seriously tough going. I carried cans of energy drinks, water and jelly babies to keep me going.

I am so passionate about time lapse but very often have no real time to research and prepare. Typically, I'm a traveller with no transport and only Google maps and the internet as my friend, so location scouting is impossible. Instead I stop. I observe. I look up. If the architecture speaks to me in some way, I take out my camera and compose the shot.

 

 

Al Jazeera Correspondent can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2000; Friday: 1200; Saturday: 0100; Sunday: 0600; Monday: 2000; Tuesday: 1200; Wednesday: 0100; Thursday: 0600.

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