Timelapse photography: speeding up life

Some of the most memorable sequences in natural history result from timelapse photography, an astonishing filming technique that opens our eyes to a whole new world. Slow-growing plants and intricate animal behaviours come alive thanks to the painstaking and delicate work of the specialist cameraman. An ordinary digital camera, taking photographs at intervals over a long period of time, is edited into a moving sequence, compressing time and occasionally exposing events that go unnoticed in real time. This selection of clips shows the technique at its best and most illuminating.

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74 video clips in this collection

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Animals in this collection

  • A female forest elephant and calf walking beside water Forest elephant

    Forest elephants were thought to be a subspecies of the

  • Dahlia anemones Corals and sea anemones

    Corals and sea anemones are related to jellyfish.

  • Male wildebeest male resting in the grass Blue wildebeest

    Blue wildebeest form part of the largest remaining aggregation of large land mammals.

  • A sexton beetle on a dead greenfinch Sexton beetles

    Sexton beetles are the undertakers of the beetle world.

  • An emperor penguin chick between two adults facing each other Emperor penguin

    There is definitely no mistaking the colourful emperor penguin and standing over a metre...

  • Large white butterfly on a white flower (c) Jan Riley Cabbage white

    Cabbage whites are common butterflies of gardens and other flowery places, where they...

  • A lesser flamingo preens its feathers with its large hooked beak Lesser flamingo

    Lesser flamingos are the smallest and most common of the flamingos.

  • Mosquito on a blade of grass Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes are a family of insects encompassing over 3,500 recognised species.

  • Colony of purple sea urchins Purple sea urchin

    The purple sea urchin lives in kelp forests.

  • A sunflower starfish Sunflower star

    Sunflower stars have more arms than other starfish, sometimes having as many as twenty...

Plants in this collection

  • Tanzania at dusk with baobab trees Baobabs

    Baobabs are trees recognisable by their distinctive swollen stems.

  • Blackberries in various states of ripeness Blackberry

    Blackberries - also known as brambles - are related to raspberries and the two plants...

  • Close-up of bluebell flower Common bluebell

    Common bluebells are anything but ordinary, with a spring

  • Common sundew with its sticky tentacles extended Sundews

    Sundews are a genus of carnivorous plants which usually live in wet habitats where the...

  • An ancient beech tree in its autumn colours Common beech

    Common beeches are beautiful woodland and landscape trees at any time of year.

  • Common poppy and forking larkspur in a flower meadow Flowering plants

    Flowering plants evolved during the time of the dinosaurs, and enlisted the help of...

  • Snowdrop flower in snow Snowdrop

    Snowdrops are perennial flowering plants native to large parts of

  • Sepik blue orchids in a row Orchids

    Orchids are the most cosmopolitan of flowering plant families, found everywhere on Earth...

  • A dense group of bamboo stems in the woods Grasses

    True grasses are a huge family that contains over 10,000 species.

  • English oak tree in a field with a rainbow English oak

    English oaks are a symbol of great strength and endurance.

  • Berries of the common yew tree Common yew

    Common yews have poisonous leaves, bark and seeds and a reputation for killing...

Habitats in this collection

  • Submersible with lights on in the deep ocean Deep ocean

    The deep ocean begins where the continental shelves and their shallow waters give way to...

  • A desert sand dune landscape in Namibia Desert

    Desert and dry scrubland describes any area that receives less than 250mm of rainfall a...

  • European beech woodland in spring Beech wood

    Beech woods are dominated by the thick dense canopy of the beech tree.

  • Mussels in the intertidal zone of the Atlantic coast Intertidal zone

    Intertidal zones lie on the shore between the high and low tide marks.

  • A poppy field in the mountains of Italy Mountain grassland

    Mountain grasslands such as those in the Ethiopian highlands, on the Tibetan Plateau and...

  • World map depicting elevation of the Earth's land surface above sea level. Mountains

    Mountains are in general a much tougher place to life than equivalent lowland habitats,...

  • The frozen winter sea ice and cliffs of the Canadian Arctic Polar

    Polar regions, found at the planet's northern and southern extremes, are the icy wastes...

  • Coral reefs off of Fiji Reefs

    Reefs have existed since at least the Cambrian, although the familiar coral-dominated,...

  • European beechwood in pale autumnal sunlight Broadleaf forest

    Broadleaf forests are the dominant habitat of the UK and most of temperate northern...

  • Acacia trees on the grassland of the Serengeti Tropical grassland

    Tropical grasslands include the savanna usually associated with Africa, and savanna-type...

  • The rainforest of Borneo Rainforest

    Rainforests are the world's powerhouses, the most vital habitats on the planet.

  • Alaskan tundra in autumn colours Tundra

    Tundra is the cold, treeless region around the poles that has permafrost as one of its...

Adaptations in this collection

  • Wildebeest migration in Kenya Migration

    Migration is the usually seasonal movement of animals in pursuit of food, suitable...

  • Black-blotched porcupinefish has inflated its body while swimming Predation defence

    Predation defence comes in many forms: physiological, anatomical and behavioural.

  • Spotted hyena tearing at an impala carcass Carnivorous

    Carnivores are animals whose main method of getting food is to kill and eat other...

  • Sloth hanging from a tree branch Adapted to climbing

    Scansorial describes animals that spend much of their life climbing such as squirrels,...

  • Orchid flower from Papua New Guinea Flowering

    Flowering is definitely the most successful plant reproductive strategy and has opened...

  • Tadpole sitting on a leaf Metamorphosis

    Metamorphosis is when a species changes body shape and structure at a particular point...

  • Red-eared turtle hatching out of its egg Egg layer

    Oviparous animals lay eggs, inside which the young then develop before hatching occurs.

  • Cat fleas amongst cat fur Parasitic

    Parasitic organisms have a close relationship with another organism, which they use...

  • Strawberry poison-dart frog sitting on leaf Poisonous

    Poisonous animals contain or secrete toxins and need to be touched or eaten to...

  • Long-beaked common dolphins circling a sardine baitball Predator

    Predators are creatures that catch and kill other animals for food.

  • Garden spider on web Trapping predator

    Trapping predators perform a particular type of ambush that involves constructing...

  • Cold tolerant

    Cold tolerant organisms have evolved various methods for coping with very low...

  • Black-backed jackal tearing at a carcass Scavenger

    Scavengers are those carnivorous animals that eat carrion (already dead animals) rather...

  • Waxwing with a red berry in its beak Seed dispersal

    Seed dispersal is when seeds are carried away from the parent plant either deliberately...

  • Two frogs mating surrounded by eggs Spawning

    Spawning animals deposit a mass of eggs and sperm in water, where they meet and are...

  • Banded mongoose foraging for parasites on skin of a warthog Symbiotic

    Symbiosis is a relationship between two organisms that's beneficial to one (commensal)...