Time-Lapse From L.A to San Francisco | What Google Maps Should Add

Five minutes into a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway and I hastily decided to rig up a camera to take 4,218 shots. I set up my tripod, threw on the camera, and programed my remote shutter release to take a frame every 6 seconds for about 12 hours. I don't know about you, but if I were in charge over there at Google Maps I would create Google Time-lapse and map the world in a walking/driving time-lapse that could be sped up or down from real time to real real fast. You're welcome!

The Idea

How freaking cool would it be if I could enter my address, then your address, decide how long I'd like it to take, and then experience a 35 mm stroll to your house? You could even add a variety of filters and take the trip down sepia lane should straight out of the camera not suffice. Yes there would be a few logistical issues but these are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. It's nothing Adobe Content-Aware, Google Fiber, a swashbuckle of programers, and a whole bunch of people with cameras couldn't fix. Last time I checked we got a whole bunch of all of that.

The Setup

I set up my Canon 5D MK III with 24-105mm  f/4 L IS, tripod, ball head, and zoomed in to 35mm. I manually focused on a point ahead of the car and then set the lens to manual focus. I turned off auto preview to save battery life and had two fully charged batteries in my battery grip. The batteries finally gave out  5 minutes from our destination just inside the city limits. After taking photos the entire day (72 GB) and ingesting them all into Lightroom 5, I spent about 2 minutes making a preset including a couple curves, a 16x9 crop, copied the preset to all photos, then exported all JPEG's at 1920 pixels on the longest edge at 240dpi. From there I imported them into Final Cut Pro X, and resized the duration to fit the song I used. Processing the photos from Lightroom to Final Cut took about 2 hours. Here are the other camera settings, if you are wondering.

  • Camera Mode - Aperture Priority
  • f/8 the entire time, which is one of the sharpest points in this lens.
  • ISO 100 till 4PM then 1 stop every 15-25 minutes.
  • Size: Small RAW
  • Shutter Release Remote - 6 seconds
  • Auto White Balance

What I learned

  • Should have taken 1 photo every 3-4 seconds to create a more cinematic, less choppy feel.
  • A tripod and camera rigged up in front of my head would be dangerous if we would have wrecked.
  • Have more than 2 batteries charged for the trip.
  • Make sure the tripod hasn't shifted more often.
  • The shutter sound every 6 seconds is quite therapeutic.

If anything this was a good exercise in marathon time-lapse photography, or MTLP for short. I had never done anything like this and the end result was, in my opinion, a better keepsake than a bunch of photos that I took shooting from the window. Considering I didn't plan on doing this I think it turned out okay. Where was your favorite place to pause in the time-lapse? What did you recognize? Bonus points if you find the frame of the squirrel overlooking the lions.

If you ever get a chance to make this drive up the PCH, get a convertible and do it. Big thanks to my sister Anna for driving, what an epic drive.


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its been already done (in a way). branded as "hyperlapse", i believe the group, Teehan+Lax Labs , used the google streetview API to render amazing time lapse (hyperllapse) videos.

you can check it out at: http://hyperlapse.tllabs.io/

wow! much cooler. thanks!

Gary Winchester Martin's picture

Holy Shiznet that is way cooler than mine.

I've build exactly this idea with a friend of mine:

Check it here: http://www.picturetheway.com/

We still want to make it possible that you can download your own video.
If you guys and gals have any feedback, please shoot!
(There isn't much we can do about the long loading time. There is a lot of data involved)

It would be awesome if you want to share it if you like it! :)

Bruno Inácio's picture

Thank you very much!

A little easier might be to use a gopro instead, set to time lapse. Just stick to your windshield, plug it into the charger and go...

Here is one i tried a few weeks back:


From Bailey, Colorado to Maitland, Florida, about 1,920 miles. One exposure every 30sec, played back at 30 frames/sec...would've been better to do a exposure every second, a lot smoother but of course 30x the data...