The Slime Mould Collective

An international network of/for intelligent organisms

Hello! This is my first foray into photographing truly tiny things. I also have little previous experience with microorganisms. I have been intending to seriously pursue my interest in genetics and microbiology, however, and an inspiring TED talk about slime mold (forgive my spelling-- I decided to stick to the conventions of my own dialect) finally sparked the passion I need to get moving on my dream.

So! If you'll tolerate my sometimes fumbling and naive questions, I will be very grateful!

1. Can a typical consumer point-and-shoot camera capture decent pictures of slime mold?

2. I'm looking at an affordable USB microscope that takes 2MP photos. I have a huge concern that 2MP will look terrible. Has anyone used such a low resolution? Do you think the images will be good enough, or would this item be useless?

3. Lighting. I understand that p. Polycephalum likes the dark. I came up with a couple solutions-- one, to simply use the flash on the camera (or lights on the USB microscope) when the time came to photograph. This is the only feasible solution I can think of for time lapses of under 15 minutes.

The other is to use one of those $5 timers you can put between the outlet and and plug with slots you can depress to tell it which 15-minute intervals throughout the day to be "on" or "off," and time the "on" periods to coincide with the time lapse photo-- reasonable if I want to take photos an hour apart.

Would the frequent flashes or intervals of light disturb the slime mold? If you've done time-lapse photography, what technique did you use?

A very big thank you to anyone who takes the time to read and reply! :)

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Hi and welcome!

1- Yes, especially if it's got a macro setting. I shoot most of my timelapses using Big SLRs but the "Slime mold disobeying" was shot using a Cannon EOS-M - not quite a point and shoot but a lot cheaper than an SLR and it'll run Magic lantern - an open source firmware mod that lets you do things like time lapse without extra kit.  Here's the vid. By the way in reference to 3. this was shot under constant but dim ( 20w fluorescent 3m away ) light. 

http://slimoco.ning.com/video/physarum-disobeying

2. I use a little Veho USB microscope for messing around at home, the images off these cheaper Cmos sensors are little noisy but they're ok. I wrote a python script that averages several frames in quick succession to improve the image quality  - I'm happy to send it out to anyone that wants it. In reference to 3. you can't control the LED on the 'scope via the PC.  There's a video here that was shot using it - Illumination was continuous LED desk lamp from the side for the full duration.

http://slimoco.ning.com/video/physarum-slime-mould-feeding

3.Yes it likes the dark but I've found in even illumination it behaves normally - it can't retreat to darker spaces. Light will induce it to form spores but a young plasmodium or a freshly transferred piece won't do it for a while. I've shot for a week without seeing spore formation. I doubt flash photography would bother it much.

Thank you! I'll try dim but constant light, and if that doesn't work, yellow. I see what you're saying about not having dark places to retreat to, so it sounds like I won't have a problem. 

Now you've given me the idea to compare the speed and behavior of physarum that is producing spores vs. physarum that is not-- if it's so simple to make it happen. Though the mere presence/absence of light would be a variable, too. 

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