Night-Blooming Cactus: Timelapse at

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Old July 27th, 2010, 07:46 PM   #1
Major Player
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Janetville Ontario Canada
Posts: 210
Night-Blooming Cactus: Timelapse

I was visiting our neighbours and noticed their collection of catus plants, some in bloom. They offered to loan me one when it was ready to bloom. Of course, I accepted. This particular barrel cactus blooms at night, holds the flower through the night and next day, but then withers and collapses. The "buds" take about five days to elongate. Then on the day, the flower begins to open at about 7:00PM and is fully open by 10 PM.

Needless to say, barrel cactus don't live anywhere near me so this was an "exotic" opportunity.

I used a Canon XL H1s with a nanoflash to do the timelapse work. Closeup work was done with the same camera, but I substituted a Nikon lens for the stock lens. There were a few glitches. The exposure changed dramatically as the flower (which was white with yellow anthers and greeny white pistil) opened. I had initially exposed for the green of the cactus. Then the position of the flower changed so I had to adjust for that.

All in all, it as an interesting first timelapse attempt for me. I hope you like the result.

Alan Emery is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 6th, 2010, 01:26 PM   #2
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 2,948
Good afternoon,

I was wondering what settings you used on your xlh1???

It is nicely done and I have been wanting to shoot some wildflowers blossoming.

thank you for sharing.
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old August 8th, 2010, 05:52 AM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Janetville Ontario Canada
Posts: 210
Hi Dale,

Thank you for the compliment. Because this was my first attempt at finishing a timelapse, I was experimenting quite a bit.

The XL H1s does not make timelapse movies all by itself. I found it can take a number of frames then pause and take another similar number of frames, but this makes a very jerky finished product. Instead I used the nanoflash timelapse function set at 220 mbps and shot at 1 frame per second for the actual flower opening, but set at one frame every ten seconds for the bud elongation. I had never before seen the cactus opening so was not certain of the length of time it would take. In the end, it was not too bad a guess. The resulting 1920x1080 MXF files were great to work with.

The XLH1s was set at 1/60 sec and 60 frames per second, but I never actually ran the tape through it. the camera was just set so I could see (and so could the nanoflash) the flower in good focus and exposure. Instead I used the nanoflash triggered by the nanoflash record button. Needless to say everything was set up using AC to power the camera, nanoflash, and lights. I was in the house, as this is not a native plant in our area. To get a night-time feel, I used medium soft lights with a dark background. This was almost too much because of the strong contrast between the dark green of the cactus and the nearly pure white of the flower.

The time lapse was taken using the stock lens. The stock lens does not focus close enough to do the close up material, so I used a Nikon zoom telephoto lens with extension tubes to do the close-ups. I have found that with a Nikon substitute lens, using a high f number is a disaster. I try to keep the f number at f8 or below (preferably f 5.6) and use a neutral density filter, if I have to, to keep the f number down. To do the pans, I attach a couple of elastic bands to the handle of the tripod and move the handle only using the elastic bands. I can actually move the camera in 2 dimensions with this arrangement. If my hand or fingers touch the camera or the tripod, the slight movements from my heartbeat or lack of smooth muscle control introduces too much jerkiness.

The focus pull is done the same way. I attach a ring clamp fitted with a perpendicular bolt to the focus ring, then attach an elastic band to that, so that I do not touch the camera.

Even with the elastic bands, I have to make sure I have several takes as inevitably I don't get it right the first couple of times.

I have also tried timelapse on outdoor flowers. If it is not a close up, it sort of works, but if you are at all close, even slight wind movement makes for a pretty unsatisfactory result. I am currently trying to make up a small light and wind shield for outdoor work.

Hope this helps,

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