The Shard – a Time Lapse study

Guest post by Paul Raftery:

The Shard film is my first time-lapse project, conceived as a collaboration between myself as an architectural photographer and videographer Dan Lowe over a couple of beers. We picked the UK’s tallest building as a suitably ambitious project and set out on a big learning curve.

Dan and I met by chance after I was commissioned to shoot the Commonwealth Institute in Holland Park in London and he was also shooting Holland Park. We discovered we’d studied photography at the same college albeit at different times and decided to create a film combining our skills.

We wanted to really explore The Shard photographically, using the same aesthetic that I would when shooting stills. The right positions, the right time of day and of course the right lens – tilt and shift mostly.

As I began work, the search for the perfect composition and perfect light now included a time element: the perfect shutter speed and perhaps more importantly, the timing between frames. One shot every two seconds seemed about right.

But we wanted to produce a more rigorous piece of a work than just a collection of nice shots and so we had to decide on the structure, length and feel of the film. Two minutes seemed about right and we would follow the building through the course of a day.

The way the building sits in the London landscape and responses to the ever-changing London weather became a central theme, to the extent that we decided that we would frame The Shard centrally in every shot so as to emphasise its form and shape.

My work shooting architecture meant I had a pretty good idea of the best viewpoints and in some cases access to high points in London already arranged. That was a great help – but still the process was painstaking! Slowly through many hours of shooting and waiting for the right weather we started to get some workable footage.

The images were processed in Lightroom, and then opened in Quick Time as an image sequence. Sometimes my inexperience showed and I had to reshoot, but the structure proved workable and we felt confident enough to approach the design and architecture magazine Blueprint to host the video.

Dan did the editing and the grading and George McLeod kindly composed a score. With just a few hours to spare we were able to get the video to Blueprint in time to coincide with their June Shard issue.

Equipment used:
Canon 5D mk2
Canon 7D
17mm Canon tilt shift
24mm Canon tilt shift
45mm Canon tilt shift
90mm Canon tilt shift
70-200mm Canon zoom

Paul Raftery is an architectural photographer based in the UK. You can see more of his stills work on his website. You can see more work by Dan Lowe here.


Posted on May 26th, 2012 by Paul Raftery | Category: Canon Eos5DmkII, Canon Eos7D, Timelapse |

3 responses to "The Shard – a Time Lapse study"

  1. Mark Dobson Says:
    May 28th, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Hi Paul and Dan,

    I really enjoyed this piece of work. I have closely observed the construction of Shard from when it was below the ground to today, almost completed.

    You really captured the excitement of seeing the new building from different parts of the city, that ‘Oh look, there’s the Shard’ feeling.

    I very much like the photographic framings, the ‘aesthetic’ that you talk about in you introduction to the piece.

  2. yang Says:
    May 30th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I like your color so much. The scene looks real and clear. Did you use some lighting kit for this ?

  3. Paul Raftery Says:
    May 31st, 2012 at 12:23 am


    Thank you for your comments. I am glad that it shows it was shoot by an architectural photographer ….


    No lights just what light was available.


    Paul Raftery

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