Vegas to London: A timelapse experiment


The plane!

Like many I saw the SF to Paris in two minutes video on Vimeo and thought “NICE”! I wanted to try it. So I did!

There was no way I could do what he did and put  a tripod up I was also very conscious of not disturbing any passengers on this night flight so I used the quietest camera I own, the GH2 using a Delkin suction mount and a to shield the copious amount of reflections due to the double glazing. It also didn’t help that the window was filthy outside. I asked one of the cabin crew to nip out and clean it. He declined. Shooting wide open will always help to get past dirt, both on glass and on a lens if it’s there but it’s not ideal. Stopping down would have meant a lot more crap on the window would have been seen.

Fortunately I was in the front row of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic in a 747 downstairs so I had the perfect place to put the camera and not be in the way of people or stop me from sleeping!

Front row

The Gh2 had the 14mm F2.5 pancake lens on it (28mm full frame equivalent) and I had to change batteries 3 times during the 9 and a half hour flight.

It worked OK. Exposure was tricky, It got very very dark of course and I had to up the ISO when it got very dark. Even that at 1250 ISO I was still getting a lot of long expsoures which resulted in lots of streaks rather than any detail of the cities below.
The flight path unfortunately was pretty straight meaning no Northern Lights but you see Chicago (at 1.01) beneath and a lot of other US cities as orange blurs which look almost like lava. You think that high the city would not seem to move so fast but trust me it did, i really needed faster exposures for them…


That's Chicago with the iphone!

I was in aperture priority mode and I turned long exposure noise reduction of the GH2 off due to it taking too long between shots to apply the noise reduction so I decided to do it in post.

I de-noised used neat video in FCP.

The Cabin Crew were suprisingly cool about it when they saw it during the flight and wanted to know more.

The opening timelapse of the plane taking off was using the iphone 4. I had it set up to do a few locked of shots on timelapse using a simple clamp onto my laptop whilst we waiting to board with the intention of not breaking FAA rules and turning the phone off  when we taxied and took off. Unfortunately due to my accidentally selecting the dark screen option on the “timelapse” app I forgot phone was still on so I accidentally caught the take off of the plane. For the landing I was going to switch off the GH2 but I fell asleep and woke up and we had landed and I guess because the camera was so tucked away the cabin crew didn’t see it.

The iphone 4

The lensskirt




The lensskit did a great job of stopping most reflections but due to the big space between the inside window and the outside window I had to cover up the whole window using my coat and when people went to sleep my pillow to make the clicks quieter, although I am sure nobody heard them before. It’s a pretty quiet camera!

In the end about 2900 photos were taken, I removed about 5 or 6 due to me changing the battery. Fortunately due to the constant moving of the plane little jerks here and there added to it which in a normal timelapse would have ruined it!

So after trying it for the first time what did I learn? Well day to night flights are tricky. If it were a daytime flight then a go pro would have been enough but i needed long expsoures. Next time I will use my T2i or T3i with battery pack as it can do longer exposures better. Also a faster lens, maybe then the 5Dmk2 would be better with the 24mm F1.4…. Well I have a daytime flight in June from London to NY which I will GoPro then I fly back from SF to London, for that I will definitely try this again!

Music is Mercury by Gustav Holst. Licensed.


Vegas to London: A timelapse experiment from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

The inspiration for this is this video:

SF to Paris in Two Minutes from Beep Show on Vimeo.


  1. Awesome video,

    Got a couple of questions:

    1) Why didn’t you use a power supply? Surely you can get an outlet on this plane and seat. Maybe you haven’t got one for the gH2?

    2) Was it hard to get permission for take off and landing camera use? Ive always had a hard time with the crew forcing my equipment to be turned off for interference or protocol.

    I like the Holst music much better than the Paris video especially when the fiery lava like lights of the cities pop out that was my favorite part of the entire sequence.

  2. Very nice – though the jumping isn’t ideal (due to quick ascents/descents?) Can that be overcome? Having the reference point of the wing I think helped the Paris video and I think the music matched the Paris video perfectly (sorry to disagree James!). I think the Holst would have worked better had it all been smoother. I also think the freeze-framed shots helped in Paris to overcome the slightly nauseating feeling because of the movement (or is that just me).

    Looking forward to the next (day) flight version..if only a GoPro could be superglued to the airframe/ stuck to the captain’s window…(joking here – obviously) 😉

    These experiments are what it is all about – keep ’em coming Philip!

    – D

  3. Phil … your stuff keeps inspiring me!! Thank you so much! BTW … really enjoyed your workshop in Austin last month! Really wished i had the time to stick around for drinks later. 🙁

    Hey, real quick … I need some tips with regards to shooting timelapse without power. 🙁

    I’m headed to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ next week for about 5 days total, AND we’re camping! I rang up all the campsites and NONE of them have electricity, which means no battery charge or AC outlet.

    I have my 5DM2 + 4 batteries, and a GoPro (just ordered a spare battery). Besides charging all of them prior to leaving, any advice on shooting with limited battery power? Or is there no way around it, unless I stay in a lodge or hotel?

    Thank you very much!


    P.S. Are you as excited as my family about the upcoming ROYAL wedding? LOL!

      1. PB – I ended up renting and bringing 12 batteries with me and it worked!! Oh well!

        Anyways, with Apple upgrading to QT X, have you tried doing timelapse in the new QT version? Of is there a write up somewhere on your blog related to this? Thank you so much!

        I just got a new MB Pro and I cannot seem to be able to install QT 7 since its already running Quicktime X.

        Thank you so much!


  4. Excellent work! I started doing airplane timelapses with my HV20 and have continued with my GoPro. I’ve learned to take more photos than would think to…

    And that video with the aurora has masterful timing and is well-edited (though I like your music more)

          1. It’s not really the cost of the camera that’s stops me upgrading.

            It’s all other stuff we’ve all brought to make it work as a video camera…I’m a PBloom disciple so I bought a lot of stuff! 🙂

  5. My last three night flights I have tried to pull this off with poor results.
    My main challenges have been light leakage, and a coach seat.

    Great job, I really like the city light section.
    Too bad the window wasn’t cleaner.

    I just re-posted an old GoPro flying timelapse video on vimeo for those interested in trying this out.


  6. hi Philip, when shooting in low light with dslrs – specially with the 5dmkII, do you use the High ISO speed noise reduction function? Or do you keep it off and remove the noise in post? Thanks!

  7. I’d like to try shooting a time lapse with my gh2 but I can’t find any recommendations on controllers. What did you use? Would you recommend the trigger trap?

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