Plant Timelapse

Photography is among my interests. I decided to experiment with time lapse photography using plants. To create a time lapse video, someone needs a camera on which they can take photos at timed intervals and a software to assemble those photographs together as a video. There are many solutions for doing this. Over time I will try out several different software programs, cameras, setups, and subjects. For this first attempt, I used a GoPro. I have a GoPro 5. It is an older model. Currently, the most recent GoPro version available is a GoPro 10. All of these models have time lapse photography settings built into the device. You choose your camera settings; select the time interval between photographs; aim the camera at your subject; and let it get started. With these cameras you can also specify that you are doing a video and it will assemble the photos into a video for you.

When doing a time lapse shot, you want to leave the setup undisturbed. But you will also want to know how things look so that you can make corrections. To this end, I let the GoPro run for a few hours and stopped it to look at the results. When I did this, I found that my original settings of taking a photo once a second was too frequent. It would fill up the memory card that I was using too fast. I also found that i didn’t like my original angle. I made adjustments, let another test run for another hour, and was content. I set things up and let them run. The results were okay overall, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. The first item of improvement was in the lighting. While aesthetically I liked the look, the light wasn’t sufficient for the plant. In my timelapse you will see that the plants grow up long and skinny. This is something that plants would do while underground with little light exposure. They would do this until they get sufficient light and then transition from growing up to growing out. Because of the insufficient lighting, these plants used a lot of their resources trying to grow up to get more light.

Towards the end of my timelapse, I pulled out one of my DSLRs. (I feel that DSLRs are ancient given the major camera manufacturers have transitioned to mirrorless. But it still works, and I keep using it). I have an intervalometer for my camera. This is a timing device that can be used to trigger camera. I set it up for 10 second interviews, just like the GoPro and let it run during the last day of the 10 days that it took for me to get my time lapse shots. The results were much better. Comparing the two, the DSLR will by my go-to device for time lapse shots. That’s not to say the GoPro is out. The GoPro is much more tolerant to various conditions, especially outdoor conditions. I’ll be using it for some outdoor time lapse shots fairly soon. Though the results will be far off in the future.

One of the issues here is that the lighting conditions that give the photo the look that I want might not be the conditions under which the plant can thrive. I started to imagine solution, and I thought a solution that may work is having a light that turns off of changes brightness in sequence with the photos. Full lighting conditions would be applied most of the time. But the moment just before to just after the shot being taken, the dimmer lighting conditions could be used. I’ve got a DMX controller and thought about using it. But that could be over kill. I thought about using a relay controlling a power source. But after a lot more thinking, I realized I already have a solution. My hue lighting. The Phillips hue lights are controllable via rest calls. I could have a pi dedicated to controlling the lights of interest.

The light switching must be coordinated with the camera. My intervalometer would not work for this. While I could probably get a working time sequence up front, over the course of days the intervalometer and the light sequencing could drift out of sync with each other. I need to have the Pi control the camera too. I’ve written before on controlling Hue lighting from the Pi. I think that could be used here. Now as soon as I get free time from work and other obligations, I’ll be looking into controlling the digital camera from a Pi. Some of the libraries that I’ve looked at appear to be capable of controlling both the traditional DSLRs and the more modern mirrorless cameras.

I’ve gotten some seeds for corn, okra, and peppers planted now. Once they sprout, I’ll start my next time lapse with a more advanced setup.

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