Photographer Neil Bromhall runs a popular YouTube channel that features mesmerizing timelapses of plants growing and blooming over multiple days. His latest effort is this pair of 1-minute timelapses that show a sunflower opening over the course of 10 days.
Bromhall uses a Nikon D500 DSLR to capture the photos that go into his videos. Often he will set up two different cameras to get both close and wide views of his subjects, giving him two perspectives he can alternate between when editing a sequence.
The plants featured in Bromhall’s timelapses are grown in a blackened, window-less studio with a grow light serving as artificial sunlight.
“Plants require periods of day and night for photosynthesis and to stimulate the flowers and leaves to open,” the photographer tells PetaPixel. “I use heaters or coolers and humidifiers to control the studio condition for humidity and temperature. You basically want to recreate the growing conditions where the plants naturally thrive.”
Lighting-wise, Bromhall uses a studio flash to precisely control his exposure regardless of the time of day it is. The grow light grows the plants while the flash illuminates the photos.
“The grow light has a blind that moves over to blocks the grow light just before I take an exposure with the flash,” Bromhall says. “After the frame is taken the blind rolls back. The exposure interval, grow light with blind, and track or rotating head are controlled by a bespoke made control box.”
Bromhall does research into each of his subjects to understand the exact conditions each plant likes to grow in.
“If they are happy, there is a good chance they will grow,” he says.
Estimating how much space a plant will need in a frame is tricky and something you’ll figure out over time with trial and error.
“Frustratingly, plants will grow up and out of frame just as they are about to open,” Bromhall says. “I often use a track to raise the camera as the plant grows. The trick is to raise the camera at the same rate as the plant grows.
“Some plants move or grow faster than others. A vine for example will grow up a support in a few days whereas a sunflower has put on its growing height before the flower head it opens.”
Capturing this sunflower timelapse well required specific knowledge about how the plant behaves as it opens.
“I know from previous experience that the sunflower head will bend down as it fills and exudes its nectar,” Bromhall says. “So to stop the head from bending down I’ve used a sturdy wire hidden behind the flower head to stop it bending due to the extra weight.”
The interval between photos for this sunflower project was between 4 to 5 minutes, and it took 10 days to capture the rings of stamens opening — each pulse of stamen rings opening took one day to shoot.
You can find more of Bromhall’s timelapses in this prior feature of his work and through his YouTube channel.