Sunday, May 31, 2015

Too Early In The Season?

The cacti we planted on the east side of the house 4 years ago have been very entertaining to observe. The Cereus repandus provide spectacular flowers nearly 5" diameter, and many times I've set up cameras to monitor the night time pollinators. From those images I've also made time-lapse clips that are great fun to watch.

But I was doubly surprised to see that my neighbor's cacti, much more established than ours, were sending out buds last week, and then a day or two later noticed ours were too! Normally these guys bloom well after monsoon rains start in mid-August. These are spectacular enough they are always worth a photo session, so last night I could tell one of the buds was going to bloom, so the chance for a home photo project was presented. Also, yesterday was the day we first passed 100F for the first time this year! Hurray! Last year we had a record year where we were over 100F EVERY day in June, but I suspect that won't happen again soon - we'll see!

Anyway, my Canon XSi and 100mm macro lens were set up on a tripod and angles were examined. At left, I took a 5-frame focus stack with the sun still up to get bud to cactus stalk in focus in a single shot. That is tough to do during an automated survey of pollinators, so the only focus-stack of the night, but otherwise in all, 1050 photos were taken!

Just as predicted, the bud swelled and opened over a few hour period, starting just about sunset. At left is a sequence over about 90 minutes from the same camera setup.

For the majority of the early evening, I took images at 1 minute intervals, but about the time I headed off to bed about Midnight, I switched to 30 second intervals in an attempt to catch more of the evening pollinators. In years past, the rustic sphinx moths seem to be the "big dogs", though in the top post above, there were everything from moths to spiders to bees setting up shop in the "community".

So I happened to wake up about 5:45, the sun just peeking over the horizon. As I walked around the house, I was hoping that the exposures weren't too overexposed, but found the camera quiet - the battery had died sometime during the night. Using the flash for fill in the dark and 2 exposures every minute, I found the fresh battery installed at Midnight lasted for 5.5 hours or 660 frames - not bad! The images were plenty detailed - at left is shown one of the images at full camera resolution - you can see all the flower parts packed with pollen waiting for someone to come by.

But that someone never came.  In reviewing all the frames, no moths, no bees, no spiders, anything... It is obvious that it is too early in the season for the sphinx moths, or evidently even the bees that swarm around the flowers before sunrise. The only insect of any kind I saw in the frame was a little miniature fly shown at right. Small payback for a night's worth of exposures!  Will definitely try again later in the Summer to see if we catch bigger game...

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