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View from City Hall Observation Deck

The Beginning

TimeLAX is a time-lapse photography project that shows the Greater Los Angeles area from many angles.

The project includes different types of photography such as panoramic, architectural and artistic. We have scouted, tested and selected more than 200 locations that will be presented in a series of videos. Although we have photo sequences made from popular spots such as the 4th St overpass in Downtown, the Griffith Observatory, the Disney Concert Hall and the John Ferraro
Building, we also included unique photo sequences captured from hard-to-find and hard-to-access places.

Downtown Los Angeles at dusk
Downtown Los Angeles at dusk

Documenting Los Angeles in photographs has been quite an adventure. Some of the required night shots were taken from places like the Verdugo Mountains, where bears, coyotes, mountain lions and snakes have regularly been seen.

There was a lot of time spent doing research and planning for each sequence because we had to constantly check the weather forecasts for fog, rain, wind and clouds. As well, it was necessary to monitor the moon phase calendar and the times the moon was going to rise and set.

Permits are an important issue as well. In Los Angeles you really don’t know where you are allowed to stand with your camera until a security officer comes to ask you who you are, where you were born, what you are doing, if the photographs are going to be used for commercial purposes, etc. Some sidewalks in Downtown Los Angeles are not public but private. Yes, private! A number of buildings have engravings on the sidewalks stating that you are walking on private property and the owner has the right to prohibit people from walking around that area any time. This gives security officers the power to approach you any time they want, even if you are just taking photos. Also, law enforcement officers in federal buildings, ports and airports do not want photographers anywhere near the premises they are patrolling.

Downtown Los Angeles from MacArthur Park
Downtown Los Angeles from MacArthur Park

Another interesting thing is that tripods are not allowed at Pershing Square and LA Live, which are located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, unless you have a permit.

One of the most incredible facts is that the majority of parks overlooking the city of Los Angeles are only open from sunrise to sunset. This means that during winter time, this urban maze of more than 10 million people will have its parks shut down from around 6pm until the following morning. There are exceptions such as Elysian Park which closes at 9pm but you better be out of that place on time otherwise the park rangers will make you drive at 50mph downhill, following you with their trucks in the darkness until you are out.

Although everyone in Los Angeles seems to have a camera and you can see film crews at any given time throughout the city, people are usually curious when you are out there shooting with professional gear. People in cars passing by will scream something at you or they will ask what you are doing if you happen to be taking photographs near a traffic light.

Los Angeles freeways from Elysian Park
Los Angeles freeways from Elysian Park

On the technical side, we have used pans and tilts while taking photographs as that allows us to create videos that look more dynamic instead of just showing a series of shots without camera movement. Another idea we had was taking some photos using Dutch angle with the purpose of rotating them in post-production.

We made many tests with different camera settings before we actually created the final sequences. On a few occasions, we had to repeat the photo sequences two or three times before we got the perfect composition with the optimal exposure latitude. Especially with panoramic shots at night, sometimes having both underexposed and overexposed spots in the same frame was just inevitable.

Ralph.

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