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Time-Lapse Movies


Time-lapse movies are really a fun way to explore many of the slower events of nature. Events that happen before our eyes, such as the opening and closing of flowers, various tropic movements of plants, movement of shadows of stationary structures, and cloud formation and disintegration, are ideal for time-lapse photography. Normally we know these events to possess inherent motion, but their time-scales are too long to register them as dynamic. Only by compressing the time-scale we can see the beauty of their fascinating motion intricacies. When we look at the time-lapse movies, these apparently static things magically spring into life. An inner working of nature, so far obstructed from our normal senses, opens up in front of us. Below, I present a few time-lapse movies that I recently created. This is my first attempt of entry into this mesmerizing world.

Have you ever thought how a creeper locates a support in the vicinity and decides to climb up. I used to think that due to wind or some other disturbance the plant happens to fall on the support and once it "feels" the support it tries to grab it. Not so! Plants are far more intelligent than that. They didn't leave such a vital piece of their survival to the pure chance of wind or disturbance.

Instead, they deliberately and actively search for a support, which I first came to know from the rich website Plants in Motion of Roger P. Hangarter. To locate a support the vines engage in a fascinating circular movement. When the vine touches a solid support, it continues with a similar motion, but this time it starts pivoting around the support. This causes the wrapping around the support. At the same time the natural growth of the plant causes it to climb up. As a mechanical engineer I am amazed by this motion and think of all the mechanical problems the plant needs to solve in order to properly hold on to a support and grow. However, in the end, the plant seems to have solved an apparently complex job with an ingenuous and elegant strategy, which is very simple.

Motions such as this can be captured and studied using time lapse photography. I have recorded a few such motions, please scroll down.

Equipments and technique: In time-lapse photography we take a large number of photos of our object in equal succession. The photos are finally chained sequentially and played fast to create the semblance of a movie.

I use a Nikon D70 digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera and Nikon Camera Control Pro software. I place the camera on a tripod, and a laptop running the Camera Control Pro is connected to the camera through USB. In the software I can select the number of photos to take, the time interval between each photo. Each photo is stored in the laptop. After all photos are taken, I use Quicktime Pro software to chain them to create the movies. In QuickTime I use Open Image Sequence (under File menu) for this purpose. Generally the resulting files are large and not so suitable for web. Fortunately QuickTime has another option "Export to Web" to reduce these large movies into web-suitable smaller files.

Great website on this topic: Plants-In-Motion.

To view the videos you will need QuickTime software which you can download for free from Apple Website: QuickTime Download


New Time-Lapse Movies July 15, 2009

Description : To create a better uncluttered background I have attached a black chart paper to a cardboard. In OfficeDepot similar boards with styrofoam back are also available. They are nicer but lot more expensive. This black background makes the movies more dramatic.

I have more new ideas for time lapse movies. I will do some more experiments and will post additional movies.

time lapse movie of morning glory flower opening and closing time lapse movie of morning glory flower opening and closing time lapse movie of scarlet pimpernel flower shedding from plant
[Click on any image above to run timelapse movie of plant movement. You can also download the QuickTime Video by right-clicking on the image.]

New Time-Lapse Movies July 9, 2009

Description : I am happy to report that the Morning Glory plant proves to be very suitable for time-lapse photo experimentation. The plant produces many flowers each day. The complete life cycle of one flower lasts exactly one day. A flower fully opens up in the early morning, lasts the entire day, folds itself up neatly at the end of the day, never to wake up again. A short but quite and contended life-span. If we cut the flower-bearing slender part of a plant and dip it in water, the plant will do fine for a long time, definitely longer than the duration of the flower. This gives predictability and ample opportunity critical for the preparation of a photographing session. What's more, if you screw up once, you can restart next day.

The two movies below show the beautiful Nastic Movements of morning glory vines.

In the next few days and weeks I plan to explore the folding and opening of flowers.

time lapse movie of morning glory tendril's search for support time lapse movie of morning glory tendril's search for support

[Click on any image above to run timelapse movie of plant movement. You can also download the QuickTime Video by right-clicking on the image.]


New Time-Lapse Movies June 21, 2009

Description of the following two movies:

1. The movie shows the effect watering a dried chick-pea seed. The chick-pea is swelling up gradually.
2. The movie shows the overnight opening up of a giant Lily flower.

time lapse movie of dry chick pea (garbanzo bean) swelling up after absorbing water time lapse movie of giant lily flower opening up to a full bloom

[Click on any image above to run timelapse movie of plant movement. You can also download the QuickTime Video by right-clicking on the image.]


Description of the following seven movies:

1. The movie shows the effect of re-watering a water deprived kidney bean plant. The plant is slowly returning to normal life over a span of about 10 hours.
2. The movie shows some amount of chick peas (also called Garbanzo beans) swelling up in preparation for germination. I put these chick peas in a small bowl and added some water. The peas are spilling over from the bowl. We know that this happens, but these movis make is vivid and alive.
3. The movie shows two flowers (I forgot their name) opening up during the daybreak. For this, I set up my camera at night and woke up at 3:30am to start shooting.
4. In this movie the prominent Mission Peak in Fremont, California, is majestically watching as another day slowly become memory.
5. This movie shows a delicately pink colored morning glory flower neatly folding itself with great patience in preparation for a nighttime of sleep.
6. Also in preparation for night, in the sixth movie, many petals of the yellow flower of a succulent plant are packing together tightly.
7. This movie shows the remarkable range of motion of baby sunflower plants and some chick pea plants in response to a lamp light. This common plant movement is called phototropism.

[Click on any image below to run timelapse movie of plant movement. You can also download the QuickTime Video by right-clicking on the image.] time lapse movie of dehydrated kidney bean plant rewatered and getting rehydrated time lapse movie of chick pea (garbanzo bean) seeds swelling up
with water and spilling over container time lapse movie of flower opening up time lapse movie of afternoon and onset of evening with Mission Peak time lapse movie of morning glory flower folding up time lapse movie of succulent cactus flower closing time lapse movie of phototropic movement of sunflower and chick pea plants


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Last Revised September 22, 2014

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