The City of Light in Timelapse

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The Eiffel Tower and carousel by night | Photo: Mayeul Akpovi

If you’ve ever visited Paris after dreaming of doing so, you no doubt discovered that the French capital is everything you wanted or imagined it to be—and more. Romantic, artistic, historic, cinematic.

Inspired by that last one, filmmaker Mayeul Akpovi created two timelapse love letters to the City of Light, “Paris in Motion,” Parts I and II. In hypnotic sweeping shots and mesmerizing slow-motion, Akpovi juxtaposes historic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre-Dame with contemporary icons such as the Louvre Pyramid, Pompidou Center and Parc de la Villette. All this as the city slips from day to dusk to dark and the literal (but not only) reason behind its nickname becomes clear.

How did he do it? Akpovi  reveals his secrets in his “Making of” video, which shows just how much dedication and patience a timelapse requires.

TrekWorld caught up with Akpovi as he contemplates his next project.

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The filmmaker on location | Photo: Mayeul Akpovi

Why Paris? How did the idea for the project originate?

I chose Paris because it is, to me, a fascinating city. The idea came to my mind when I realized that after having lived four years in Paris, I still had no pictures of the French capital. Now living and working in Besançon, a town to the east of France, I decided to travel back to Paris and shoot some photographs and eventually cast a video. (In the beginning, I viewed all this as a personal project for my family and me).

Is Paris really the City of Light?

Yes! Paris is the City of Light, not only because of its magnificent night illuminations, but because it was home to the great philosophers Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Condorcet and because of the contributions made during the Enlightenment by scientists such as Buffon and Jussieu and the writer Diderot.

How did you get interested in timelapse photography?

A couple of months after my arrival in Besançon, I came to photography and video filming. I discovered the timelapse technology in 2012 when I acquired a Kessler Pocket Dolly.

What photographers and filmmakers inspire you?

Through my passion for timelapse I am mostly inspired by photographers or filmmakers like Tom Guilmette, Tom Lowe, Artem Sergeevich and by the Swiss photographer John Wilhelm. I am also fond of cinema directors such as Tim Burton, Spielberg and David Fincher.

What was your favorite location from the two videos?

I don’t really have any preferences, but I do appreciate the crowd ambiance around the Pyramid of the Louvre Museum.

What was the most difficult location to capture?

I had quite some targetting difficulties (as I had to move around) on the Invalides Bridge, at space 360° of Tour Montparnasse and at Trocadéro, wrestling with tourists equipped with sophisticated cameras. It was a competition as to “who would get the best view angles.”

Your “Making of” video shows you walking with your camera on a tripod and shooting landmarks from several vantage points. How much walking did you do for each video?

I have no idea of the distances I walked for each of my videos, but I shot approximately 12,000 photographs, and for those photographs for which I needed my tripod, I moved 10 to 50 centimeters per photograph.

Did you shoot both videos entirely on foot?

Yes, the two videos were filmed walking with a tripod, and sometimes lifting the camera only by hand.

What’s your favorite travel destination?

My favorite destination is Cotonou in Benin (my hometown) where I travel every year. Paris would come a near second.

Do you have a favorite travel book, film, music, TV show/series?

Book? Paris, Versailles aux Editions A. Leconte

Film? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Music? Angel – Mezzanine (Massive Attack)

TV show? On ne demande qu’à en rire (France 2) (One can only laugh about it)

TV series? Castle

Aside from your photography equipment, what three things do you bring with you to make life on the road easier, more comfortable, more efficient, more fun?

Aside from my photography equipment, I always carry my smartphone (very important since it contains all my notes and on/offline cards), comfortable walking shoes and sunglasses.

What has travel taught you about yourself that you never knew?

To discover the history of the monuments I photographed, to appreciate the architecture of each town I visited and to love nature.

What have you done in your travels that you never imagined yourself doing?

I mostly learned that I should travel more… Enjoy the good things we contribute to directly or indirectly.

What’s next?

I am coming back from Istanbul, Turkey, after a week vacation, where I shot some photographs and filmed a couple videos. Photography has become a passion.

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The Pyramid at the Louvre | Photo: Mayeul Akpovi

“Paris in Motion (Part I)” Locations

  • Les Invalides
  • Le pont des Invalides
  • Eglise Saint-Eustache
  • Place de la Bastille
  • Funiculaire de Montmartre
  • Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre
  • Pont de Bir Hakeim
  • Trocadéro (Palais de Chaillot, Tour Eiffel)
  • La Défense (Esplanade de la Défense)
  • Le Louvre (Pyramide du musée du Louvre, L’Arc de Triomphe du Carousel)
  • Tour Montparnasse (Paris vu aérienne, Tour Eiffel, etc.)
  • Pont des Arts (Vue sur la Seine au couché du soleil)
  • Champs de Mars (Feux d’artifices de la Tour Eiffel)
  • Les champs Elysées
  • L’Arc de Triomphe (Place de l’Etoile)
  • Pont de Neuilly (La Défense, Grand Arche de la Défense)
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Porte Maillot (Paris Metro) | Photo: Mayeul Akpovi

“Paris in Motion (Part II)” Locations

  • Gare de Lyon
  • Bir Hakeim
  • Le Petit Palais
  • Porte Maillot
  • Palais des Congrès de Paris
  • La Défense
  • Métro Hôtel de Ville
  • Pont des Arts (Institut de France)
  • Quartier Bercy
  • Place de l’Opéra
  • Place Saint Michel
  • Trocadéro
  • Avenue de New York (Tour Eiffel by night)
  • Hôtel de ville
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Porte de Saint Cloud
  • Gare Saint Lazare
  • Versailles
  • Berges de la Seine
  • La Géode (Parc de la Villette)
  • Place Saint-Sulpice (la fontaine et l’église Saint-Sulpice)
  • Place de la Nation
  • Jardins de Luxembourg
  • Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
  • Pont du Garigliano
  • Place des Innocents (Fontaine des Innocents)


Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L USM
Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye
Samyang 14mm f2.8
Tamron70-300mm f4-5,6 Di VC USD
Filters: ND2 to ND400



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