National Geographic photographer creates striking Inauguration Day time-lapse

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Friday, January 29, 2021
NatGeo photographers on documenting Biden's historic inauguration
National Geographic photographers reflect on documenting President Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

WASHINGTON -- It might sound difficult to capture an entire day in one frame, but that's exactly what one National Geographic photographer did for President Joe Biden's inauguration - with a little help in post-production.

Photographer Stephen Wilkes and his assistant Lenny Christopher spent 15 hours that day in a scissor lift on the National Mall, snapping more than 1,500 photographs from the early hours of the morning until nightfall.

Photographer Stephen Wilkes shot more than 1,500 photographs of President Joe Biden's Inauguration over 15 hours on January 20, 2021, combining them into this time-lapse image.
Photograph by Stephen Wilkes, National Geographic

The final product is comprised of hand-picked scenes from 50 frames that were eventually composited into one piece. It includes then-President Donald Trump leaving the White House on Marine One in the upper-right corner of the frame, the actual inauguration ceremony in the middle and the nighttime memorial lights on the National Mall to the left.

"I knew in my heart that this picture defines not just the moment in history, but also the fact that democracy was saved," Wilkes told National Geographic, referencing the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier in the month and the resulting unprecedented security in the capitol on Jan. 20. "We did save democracy because this day happened."

Wilkes added: "They tried, but they couldn't stop it."

Visit National Geographic's website to learn more about Wilkes' day-to-night photography.

MORE: National Geographic photographers capture inauguration week scenes around deserted downtown Washington

President Joe Biden's inauguration this week was like no other in recent history, and National Geographic photographers were on the ground throughout the nation's capital to capture the scenes around the city.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of National Geographic partners and this ABC station.