Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Heath Robinson and the Chinese Lantern

Oh oh I hear you say. Here we go again. Another technical post. Yep - another flash of inspiration, or something. The seed cases on my Chinese Lantern plant look fascinating now the orange outer coating has rotted away leaving just a skeleton surrounding the seed case. How best to present it?

First I tried a normal photo:

Chinese Lantern Plant Seed Case

I also tried a series of focus stacked photos but the result was awful. While the outer casing was fine the stacking program had great difficulty resolving the red inner seed case. What would be better, to my way of thinking, would be a video but how to set about it. That's when the Heath Robinson in me came up with an idea. Find a way to turn the seed case and take a series of stills and then make them into a video.

I had recently acquired some stepper motors:


Normally a motor keeps going round when you apply a voltage. A stepper motor only turns a small distance each time you apply a voltage. The one I chose takes 48 steps to turn one revolution so I set up an Arduino 'computer' to control the steps and wait while I took each photo.

The seed case is being held on top of the motor with some pink Blu Tack.
Canon EOS 350D  Canon EFS 18-55mm lens
f14 1/20sec ISO 200
Lighting - two 12V LED lamps.


Next - find a program to convert the still shots to a video. I had lost the program I previously used but a quick Google found the freeware program Images to Video HERE which has a simple interface and seems to do a great job. It only works with .jpg files but can make .wmv, .avi, .flv or .mov video files.


Once the video it made had been rotated in Corel Video Studio and repeated a few times the result was:

I think that occasionally it is interesting to be able to show and look right round an object.


  1. This is one of your best yet. The awful weather does have it's advantages. I do like 360 degree images. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Brilliant John.
    What a great mind you have.

  3. Thanks Adrian. The ideal would be an image that the viewer could rotate - I'll have to investigate that.

  4. Thanks Keith. It keeps me off the streets and out of mischief lol.

  5. PS a mirror or prism and a laser light would be interesting

  6. Steady Adrian - you'll be wanting a hologram or 3D piccy next lol.

  7. I love seeing what you achieve on a budget..beggar the budget bit. I think these posts are wonderful. Keep them coming. Fresnel lenses are cheap another avenue to wander down. You are half way to a hologram......3D is a whole different ball game........

  8. The technical wizard comes up trumps again.

    Excellent stuff John.

  9. As someone who really doesn't understand the technicalities at all I do enjoy seeing your latest experiment, you are clever! I thought the results were brilliant but I also liked the still photo, it looked like a piece of jewellery, a pendant I thought :)

  10. Flattery will get you everywhere Frank ;)

  11. Hello Jan. Painted silver or gold, or maybe a bit of glitter and they would make great Christmas ornaments.

  12. Absolutely brilliant! What a beautiful piece of nature seen in rotation ~ and how fitting on Chinese New Year's Day!

    ... and Candlemas Day, and over here, Groundhog Day.

  13. Thank you Glo. The beauty in nature never ceases to surprise me.

  14. Hi John.. I thought the still was beautiful but the video was even better..very clever:)

  15. Thank you Helen. It beats going out in the cold, damp weather.


Thank you for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Any comment, or correction to any information or identification I get wrong, is most welcome. John

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