This video takes nature time lapses to a whole new realm — outer space

Lightning storms and the Northern Lights are popular inspirations for time lapses, but capturing that same phenomenon from outer space puts the popular technique on an entirely new level. SmugMug Films recently compiled images from the International Space Station into several incredible time lapses that are designed to commemorate Nikon and its 100th anniversary by highlighting the brand’s presence aboard every manned NASA flight since 1971.

Using about 30 photos per second of footage, the time lapse highlights some of the incredible views from the space station’s cupola, the only spot from where astronauts can see the entire earth at once. From city lights at night to lightning flashes above the clouds, the time lapse offers a glimpse while speeding up Earth’s rotation to just a few seconds. The ISS only needs about 90 minutes to make a complete trip around the world.

Anton Lorimer, a SmugMug FIlms videographer, said the time lapse took about a week to compile, including gathering the photos and organizing the images. Finding the shots was one of his biggest challenges, since time lapses need to be shot from the same position over a period of time. With some help from NASA, Lorimer was able to locate enough photos for several time lapses from different perspectives, which he compiled into a single video.

Adjusting the images to get the best quality was also a challenge, said Lorimer, who was inspired to create the time lapses by an earlier film about astronaut and photographer Don Petit. “There were some time lapses already created in the NASA archives, but the quality of most were not up to par in terms of the image quality,” he said. “So, I decided to create my own time lapses using the original photos.”

The first Nikon entered outer space aboard Apollo 15 in 1971 — prior to that, NASA used large-format (70mm) film cameras, but found that something more portable was needed. That’s when the astronauts took up the Nikon Photomic FTN, chosen based on the company’s reputation for durability. Nikon says its cameras have been on every manned mission since, with the latest missions using the D4.

Those space cameras are the same models consumers can buy for themselves, Steve Heiner, Nikon’s senior technical manager, says, except the cameras mounted on the outside of the ISS are modified to withstand the extreme temperatures and zero-gravity conditions.