Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Synchronized Bloomin'

A week or so ago we noticed that cacti we finally got in the ground last fall was budding out and soon to bloom.  They are generically known as Peruvian Apple Cacti, Cereus repandus.  Then last Thursday night it was apparent both buds were going to pop out the same night, so I went to get the camera to do some frames to put into a time-lapse sequence.  With the just-over Olympics, somehow the "Synchronized Bloomin'" title seemed appropriate.

I started out with 3 minutes between frames, using the on-camera flash for illumination and manual mode exposure, but it was apparent that wasn't fast enough for the quickly opening flowers.  So for most of the early evening I used a frame rate of once per minute.  After the flowers were open and I was heading to bed, I slowed it to 2 minutes, then 3 minutes between exposures before going to sleep about 1am.  I woke up with a start just in time at 5 to put it into aperture priority so the exposures would remain properly exposed during the changing twilight conditions.  I kept the flash on and turned the ISO down so that the flower illumination would stay consistent.  Once the sun started rising the flowers started closing rapidly and I stopped the sequence at 8:30 before going to work.

A quick review of the frames revealed some surprises!  We had some visitors during the night!  I assumed some pollinators would come out of the woodwork and indeed the exposures caught 2 different Rustic Sphinx Moths (Manduca rustica).  Interestingly, after the moths came by, just before sunrise the bees swarmed the flowers until they started closing just after sunrise.  Click on the picture at left for the full size image - check out those bee saddlebags filled with pollen!  Besides the camera flash drawing attention to the flowers, you can see the cats were also drawn likely by the buzzing of insects and the large moths coming by.  We think those are Hannah's ear tips in the moth pictures above, and Lucy is here watching the bees... 

Once all the images are taken (325 in this case), it is easy to assemble them into a time-lapse sequence using Windows Moviemaker, normally installed on most computers.  Load all the images and pick your playback rate and hit play is about all you do.  In this case, the playback is about 7 frames per second.  Add a title, upload to Youtube and you are done.  I think the clip came out pretty great - good motion of the flowers opening and closing, with occasional flashes of moths and bees and cats...  You can imagine too that other sizable pollinators came by as you can see where the stigma jumped as large insects invaded the flower.  At one frame every 3 minutes, it just isn't fast enough to catch many of them.  Anyhow, a fun project for a summer evening - would be glad for a chance at a reshoot!

No comments: