Time-Lapse Shows What San Francisco Looks Like Without Any Humans

Two years ago, director Ross Ching created a viral hit by showing Los Angeles in a time-lapse video in which every trace of cars and people was removed. That project was such a success that Ching tells us he’s now planning to create an entire series based on the same idea, showing what iconic cities around America would look like if the humans within them suddenly vanished. The first stop in his “Empty America” tour was San Francisco, captured beautifully in the haunting video above.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video showing how the magic was done:

Basically, Ching uses a large number of photos from each scene to create a single Photoshopped photo in which all the moving cars and people have been removed. He then layers this still image on top of his time-lapse video, selectively showing the still in areas where they is human activity and the time-lapse footage in portions where there isn’t.

You can actually detect this trickery in the video if you pay close attention to the shadows in the frame. You can subscribe to the “Empty America” series through this YouTube playlist.

  • TrollDaddy

    So where are the apes?

  • harumph

    Is it just me or does this guy need a level on his tripod?

  • ocm

    seriously? who cares

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Interesting idea. Other than the lack of cloud shadows it’s pretty well done. I think that aspect puts it in the uncanny valley though, if that term could apply to cityscapes.

  • brob

    if you ask me, the time lapse aspect of this does nothing for impact. It’s much more eerie in real time speed with no people, or even just the still image alone. This is a waste of time really.

  • Meefo King

    Dead on. Not difficult to find quiet moments like this, even in the city. Also some pretty poor photoshop work in the photos. Overall, fails to leave an impression.

  • MD

    Seriously? Photographers do.

    The concept for these photos is solid enough but the execution is incredibly uninspiring. Great photography is concept AND execution, not one or the other.

  • guest

    I think the off-balance angles contribute to his perspective.

    not having something perfectly leveled doesn’t mean you’re some amateur with terrible execution, you know–some things are intentional. I suppose he didn’t adhere much to the “rule of thirds” either.

  • guest

    I don’t suppose you quite grasp how “time” in “time lapse” contributes to the image.

  • Adam Cross

    no one has ever said that things need to be level, having things level and adhering to other photography “laws” makes for an extremely saturated pool of incredibly similar (and boring) images.