With the recent rapid development of GaN based optoelectronic devices, a full understanding of the dynamics of fundamental optical transitions in GaN epilayers and quantum wells becomes increasingly important. In this paper, the dynamics of fundamental optical transitions, probed by picosecond time- resolved photoluminescence (PL), in GaN and InGaN epilayers, InxGa1-xN/GaN and GaN/AlxGa1-xN multiple quantum wells (MQWs) are reviewed. For GaN epilayers, optical transitions in n- and p-type (Mg doped) and semi-insulating GaN epilayers are discussed. Time-resolved PL results on the fundamental optical transitions in these materials, including the impurity-bound excitons and free excitons transitions, are summarized. For MQWs, recombination dynamics of optical transitions in both InxGa1-xN/GaN and GaN/AlxGa1-xN MQWs grown by different methods (MOCVD vs. MBE) are compared with each other as well as with GaN and InGaN epilayers to extrapolate the mechanisms and quantum efficiencies of the optical emissions in these structures. The implications of these results on device applications, in particular on the blue LEDs and laser diodes as well on the lasing mechanisms in GaN blue lasers, are also discussed.