Time lapse: Yosemite

By Phil Plait | January 21, 2012 1:27 pm

Apparently I could do nothing but post incredible time lapse videos all the time. Watch this staggeringly beautiful video, "Yosemite", and be in awe.

[YES, make it full screen and HD!]

The video was made by Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty, and the music? "Outro", by a group called M83.

Ha! That’s the name of a spiral galaxy I’ve written about once or twice before. Even thrice. And it’s appropriate, given how prominently our own galaxy features in this video.

The shots of the park during the day aren’t too shabby, either.

I’ve lived out west for twelve years now, and I’ve never made it to Yosemite park. Maybe it’s time to change that.

Tip o’ the piton to Chris Perriman.

Related posts:

Time lapse: The Aurora
Time lapse: old rocks and old skies
Orion in the Mayan skies
The lines in the sky are stars
Incredible all-sky picture
Very Large Telescope, Very Stunning Time Lapse Video

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (51)

  1. Observations: 1.) that’s an incredible amount of air traffic overhead in one shot; 2.) at the end, the waterfall is bending a tremendous amount. I don’t understand that.

    Conclusion: I can’t even remember when I was ever in a place without light pollution where I could see the night sky like that. *sad*

  2. Ganzy

    Wow. That was staggeringly beautiful on all fronts, the Earth, Space and the Music, not to mention the technical and imaginative human input that brought it all together.

    If I had to capture it all in a word, it would be… Bounding.

  3. Ganzy


    In answer to your second question regarding the waterfall bending. If you look very carefully, there is a science teacher hanging from a rope halfway down the cliff demonstrating to a group of kids down below, how the falling water is attracted towards the Negativley charged acrylic rod he is holding in his hand. ūüėÄ

  4. Oldtaku

    The sky shots are fantastic – but I’d like to see a version where the color saturation isn’t pumped through the roof for the day shots.

  5. Don Denesiuk

    Incidentally, the music is also used in the Snow Boarding film ‘The Art of Flight’ http://artofflightmovie.com/

  6. BethK

    Phil, you have to get down to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park during the dark of the moon. It was splendid and very dark.

  7. Chris P

    Piton tip received gratefully, sir.

  8. Vitis01


    That is Bridal Veil Falls and the wind is doing that to it. I almost died once while swimming below it and the wind blew the waterfall ON TOP of me!

    I camped up on top of Half Dome before they closed it to night stay-overs. It looks not so big but the top of that rock is actually as big as a couple soccer fields. The moon was full and the light was so bright reflected off the white granite that it was hard to sleep.

    Yosemite is my favorite place on earth.

  9. Tom

    I took the family there last spring. Awesome place.

    Seeing those climbers on El Capitan reminded me of this video (below). The climb takes most people a couple of days and they sleep in hammocks on the side overnight (that’s the scene with the flashlight on El Cap). Recently, though, some extreme climbers have shortened the time to a couple of hours. Incredible. This is Dean Potter, who holds the record, I think.


  10. Join us at Glacier Point this August – 25+ telescopes, slide show at sunset, star gazing all night!

  11. Meg

    Great video!

    What is that flashing in the rock at minute 1:27 ?


  12. Jeeves

    I thought I noticed a variable star at 2:30, rising some distance below the Pleiades. I think that might be Aldebaran, which is indeed a variable star (according to Wikipedia). Amazing that you can actually see a star varying in brightness!

  13. Never been to Yosemite!? It is *absolutely* time to change that. For your first time, I’d recommend going in May when waterfalls are running strong.

    I’ve visited 5 or 6 times and never tire of Yosemite’s magical beauty. Love love the shot from behind Lembert dome, which I finally saw up close for the first time when Tioga Pass was uncharacteristically open the day after Thanksgiving 2011.

    God, I miss it.

  14. Vitis01


    That is a climber on El Capitan spending the night before they finish their ascent.

  15. Douglas Troy

    That was awesome. I love these time lapse videos, they are really incredible.

  16. Chris Winter

    I think Ansel Adams would have been impressed by this.

  17. Sean McCorkle

    Thank you for posting this beautiful movie. And heartfelt thanks to John Muir, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Rooseveldt and all the countless others involved in creating and making up the National Park Service for preserving Yosemite and the many other National Parks and their skies.

    Sharon@1 and Beth @ 6: May I also recommend Canyonlands NP and Mesa Verde NP – some of the best dark skies I’ve experienced recently. And also the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt NP as well.

    PGYx @ 15:
    Never been to Yosemite!?
    I ashamedly admit that I never have.

    It is *absolutely* time to change that.
    I absolutely agree.

  18. Pete Jackson

    Great footage! But what is that going on at 1:11 just above the mountains on the right? Looks like lightning, but the sky there is completely clear!

  19. Michelle

    Ugh that song is so good. I got the album yesterday, definatly the kind of thing you could listen too whilst stargazing.

    What an awesome video, thanks for sharing!

  20. NAW

    So there are shots of people climbing El Capitan and nobody has made a Captain Kirk joke yet? And you call yourselves geeks. Shame on you all. The shot with the guy with the light would have been easy prey.

  21. Very nicely done. Since I’m a tremendous fan of night photography, and Yosemite has been my favorite place on Earth for many years, I’ve visited Yosemite many times just for the purpose of staying up all night to take photos, but unfortunately never a time-lapse like this.

    I used to visit once a month or so for about 7 years, and many times while living elsewhere, and have hiked Half Dome twice and Yosemite Falls once, plus so many other hikes. It is a beautiful, fantastic place not to be missed.

    @Pete Jackson – @1:11 Those are people with headlamps walking around.

    @Meg – @1:27 that is a climber scaling El Capitan at night. The light is from their headlamp.

    Anyone interested in photography of Yosemite should also check out photo books by the late Galen Rowell, who climbed and photographed Yosemite and the rest of the high Sierras professionally.

  22. Kevin

    Dark skies at national parks? Try Bryce Canyon (7.4 limiting magnitude) – astronomy nights on most Tue-Thur-Sat from May thru October (Saturday nights in winter). This year’s astronomy festival is May 17-20, concluding with the annular solar eclipse on the 20th.


  23. Naomi

    Holy crap, dude, you’ve gotta go to Yosemite. It’s one of my favourite places ever and I’ve only been on two day tours. (Same tour, but one was in July, one in December. TOTALLY different world.)

  24. Pepijn

    This seems as good a place as any to shamelessly plug this video I put together, featuring another great M83 track (Moonchild): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1KKXmBnzG0

    Disclaimer: I made none of this. The video was made by CICLOPS (http://www.ciclops.org/view/24), I just put the music to it and reordered the video somewhat to fit the music.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    Check out the Grand Tetons. They are amazing.

    Gary 7

  26. I love M83. Great fit to the video too. “Midnight City” is a good one. :)

  27. Yosemite is one of the great pleasures of living on Earth. I sincerely hope you get to visit!

  28. Agreed, Phil, you HAVE to go see Yosemite. It has to be one of the most spectacular places on Earth. They’ve done their damnedest to turn it into a tourist trap, but the place completely transcends all such efforts.

    And yes, go in the spring, when the waterfalls are going full blast.

  29. Add me to the chorus of people saying “You haven’t been to Yosemite!?”
    Granted, where you live in Colorado is pretty darn spectacular in spots, but Yosemite beats even that! I’ve only been there twice, but I can’t wait to go back. Heck, I saw a bear up close within about 10 minutes of arriving. It was unnervingly unconcerned by all the people around it :)
    Yosemite Falls is fantastic to see in person, as are Half Dome and El Capitan. Vernal Falls is a great place to start if you’re stiff from the car ride: it’s an easy half-hour-ish walk to a bridge that the wind bathes in mist from the falls :)
    The really amazing bit is that the steep valley that makes up most of the park was carved largely by glaciers. We’re not talking about slow continental uplift of the surrounding land, we’re talking about a series of mile-thick bulldozers of ice that took high flat ground and carved out hundreds of gigatons of solid rock on geologically short time-scales. It’s really something to see!

  30. Chris Winter

    Allow me to add my voice to the chorus: Yes, Phil, you must get to Yosemite ASAP.

    My recommendation would be to drive east on highway 140 through Mariposa and El Portal to enter the park. Once inside, you drive through unremarkable evergreen forest for a ways; then you swing left around a curve and the whole valley opens out before you in breathtaking wise.

    If you go, I assume you’d be flying to San Francisco and renting a car. My route accords pretty well with that. Of course, any way you get to Yosemite is a good way.

    And spring is a good time to go. The one downside is that highway 120 will be closed, so you can’t get up to Tuolumne Meadows and down into Lee Vining to see Mono Lake. (The road to Glacier Point may also be closed, but that’s less certain.)

  31. Sean McCorkle

    (don’t mean to detract from the well-deserved adoration of Yosemite in this thread, but I do hope all readers will understand the important role that National Parks play in the preservation of Dark Skies )

    Kevin@24: Very much appreciate that link. I count myself lucky as having been able to visit Bryce NP–a glorious place–although it was during gibbous Moon and I didn’t experience Dark Sky while there. I’m an east-coaster who has been on the run, my whole life, from encroaching light pollution everywhere I’ve lived. Several years back I finally took the plunge and packed telescopes and camping equipment and drove out west. While camping on the first evening at my first destination, Badlands NP, I sat back and watched the Moon rise over a landscape that I swear looked like that of Altair 4 in “Forbidden Planet, and thought to myself “I can’t believe that I put this off for so long!” (I’m 54). Every summer since then I’ve been going to the parks out west. A few years ago I finally made it to the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah, CO and NM, and was so overcome that I’ve been trying to perform a yearly pilgrimage there ever since then. Bryce is quite high in elevation, and quite remote -I’ve no doubt that the skies are wondrous there. Unfortunately I don’t think my schedule will allow that event, but I hope to return there at some Moonless time.

    Gary 7 @ 29: Any particular favorite locations? The Grand Tetons are on my TODO list too.

  32. Phil:
    Make a special point of visiting Glacier Point (seen in the video at the beginning) on a Friday night when the local amateur astronomers set up their scopes for the visitors. Great fun!

  33. @14. Jeeves :

    I thought I noticed a variable star at 2:30, rising some distance below the Pleiades. I think that might be Aldebaran, which is indeed a variable star (according to Wikipedia). Amazing that you can actually see a star varying in brightness!

    Actually, you can see *many* more than just one variable star – Mira (Omicron Ceti) being the most wonderful example whilst other bright variables include Mekbuda (Zeta Geminorum) and Betelgeux (Alpha Orionis – yes, that Betelgeuse) among others. ūüėČ

    I wasn’t aware of Aldebarran being a notable variable though Wikipedia does confirm it’s slightly so ranging from 0.75 to 0.95 in apparent magnitude. Cheers. :-)

    Although as its page on Kaler’s Stars site – linked to my name here – notes :

    .. [Aldebaran] is a low-level irregular variable star that fluctuates erratically and to the eye unnoticeably by about two-tenths of a magnitude.

    Aldebaran doesn’t vary by very much at all and so I’d surprised if it was noticeably varying in this clip.

    Which is, indeed, spectacular. :-)

    Could be Aldebaran just scintillating (“twinkling”) perhaps as the explanation there?

  34. Man, I miss the West sometimes.

  35. Slow29er

    Check out how they shot this at http://vimeo.com/35223326

  36. If nobody’s mentioned it, the track “Outro” is off M83’s album “Hurry up, We’re Dreaming”. Other good tracks off that album include ‘Midnight City”, which has already figured in some ads, “Reunion”, “Claudia Lewis”, “Soon, My Friend”, “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea”, “New Map”, “OK Pal”, “Steve McQueen” (my favorite), and “Klaus I Love You”.

    It’s sort of reminiscent in a good way of some of the electronic scores from the Eighties. Well, anyways, I knew it was a recent M83 track right off the bat, though I didn’t catch Phil’s ID of it. I think we’re going to hear more of the songs off this album as time goes on.

  37. @Jeevs and MTU: I’m now fascinated by the idea of a variable star being visible, er, varying, on a timelapse (specifically within a single night). But a quick search of Youtube doesn’t bring up anything of the sort. Do either of you know of any footage of that sort of thing?
    Also, MTU, you mention scintillation – are you talking about interstellar scintillation? Obviously, atmospheric scintillation happens on millisecond timescales (unless we’re talking about clouds or something ūüėõ ).

    /fascinated cat is fascinated

  38. Kevin

    @Sean McCorkle: It really is amazing with a moonless sky and the astro festivals are always scheduled around them. But any time of year around the new Moon is simply spectacular, best I’ve ever seen the winter Milky Way was at Bryce – after a storm and it was REALLY cold, but worth it.

  39. ‚Äúthis particular is very interesting. thanks for that. we need more sites like this kind of. i commend you on your great content and excellent topic choices.‚ÄĚ

  40. Ted S

    I agree the “variable star” is most likely Aldebaran, but I think what we’re seeing is thin clouds passing; you can see them on the left, and the variation stops after the star rises higher above the horizon. I, too, am trying to find videos of variable stars, and haven’t found any yet. If I can’t find any, I’ll try to make one (or more). There are eclipsing binaries that “wink” in less than one night, so it should be possible. The most dramatic one I’ve found on paper is U Sagittae, which goes from magnitude 6 (barely visible) to 9 and back in six hours. I’m sure there are others.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar