DSLR Shooting Time-Lapse of the Night Sky Captures Its Own Theft Instead

After seeing the story of the DSLR-stealing lion that we published last night, Zurich, Switzerland-based photographer Alessandro Della Bella sent in an unusual camera theft story of his own. While shooting time-lapse photographs of the night sky using three intervalometer-trigger DSLRs, one of the cameras was stolen by a thief. What’s interesting is that the camera documented the whole event through time-lapse photos! The video above shows the time-lapse that resulted.

You’re probably wondering how the camera got stolen in the first place, and how Alessandro managed to recover the photos.

The story is actually a good example of why you should never leave your camera unattended. Thinking his time-lapse location was remote enough that no thief would ever pass by, Alessandro actually set his cameras up in the field and then left to attend a birthday party.

The other two cameras on the scene recorded the thief’s flashlight moving about. This allow Alessandro to tell the police that the culprit spent exactly 37 minutes in that field prior to making off with the camera.

That information didn’t directly lead to the guy’s arrest though: the thief drew attention to himself after flaunting the camera in public that same night. Witnesses informed police, and the cops apprehended the suspect.

Alessandro writes that the guy was a klepto who just happened to stumble upon the gear:

The thief climbed the hill to watch the stars without a bad intention but couldn’t resist to take something that did not belong to him. I have to admit that providing such an opportunity was careless and partly my fault as well. After all, this annoying incident results in a quite funny time-lapse clip, so enjoy!

This is the resulting time-lapse video that the cameras were shooting. It was selected as a Vimeo staff pick and has amassed nearly half a million views over the past month:

  • Dave

    Great time lapse that resulted though (the last video). I especially like at 47 secs the frame rate change to enhance the shooting star. Good stuff!

  • Bram Stollman

    Amazing. I wonder how he gets such high quality in the thief video. The sky is stunningly sharp!

  • bob cooley

    “Alessandro writes that the guy was a klepto who just happened to stumble upon the gear:”

    So someone stumbled upon an unattended camera, in the dark, and happened to be a klepto too, who got caught the same night? I hate to call shenanigans, but this is a pretty amazing set of coincidences, and sounds much more likely like clever marketing.

    The footage is beautiful, though :)

  • Alessandro Della Bella

    Hey Bob

    Sorry for not describing the story clear enough. It happened shortly after midnight and I write “on the same day”. The thief was caught less than 24 hours after stealing the camera, on the “next” days afternoon.

    I waited until police closed this case before publishing the images. If you want a proof, that this is not a fake story, please contact me and I’ll give you the case number to check with Swiss police.

    By the way: “Helvetia by Night” is a private, free-time project :)

  • bob cooley


    Thanks for the update. again, beautiful footage.


  • Jeremy

    There is some great footage there but to be honest… If I saw a camera in the middle of an empty field in the middle of the night… I would pick it up too (and like any other photographer out there I would think that it was lost and look at meta data to try to find the owner.