Flowers in the Arts

Flowering Cacti: An Interview with Greg Krehel, the “Echinopsis Freak”

September 16, 2016

Here at 1-800-Flowers.com, we love cacti and flowers, which means we especially love flowering cacti. We came across some of Greg Krehel’s amazing timelapse videos of echonopsis cactus flowers during their blooming cycle and had SO many questions. Luckily, Greg was able to answer some of these for us and we thought you may be interested in Greg’s impressive artwork, too!

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  1. How did you get involved in working with flowers and cacti?

Growing up in New York, I often went with my father to a local nursery. It had a table with small cactus in 2” pots that I became fascinated with. That was the beginning of my love of cacti. The bug stuck with me over the years but really blossomed when I retired and had time to take on some new hobbies.

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  1. What inspired you to start time-lapse montages?

Most cactus flowers last only a brief period. In the case of the Echinopsis genus of which I’m particularly fond, the flowers last barely a day from opening to wilting. This brief existence caused me to first start taking still photographs of the blooms to try to preserve some of their beauty (I’d never owned a DSLR camera or taken anything besides family trip pictures prior to starting to image cactus blooms). The jump from still images to time lapses came from seeing one of my sons produce a time lapse video as part of a work project.

  1. What is your favorite piece and why?

My favorite time lapse to this point is one that shows 24 hours in the life of 10 gorgeous yellow ‘Daydream’ flowers compressed into a few seconds. The scene opens with 6 flowers open and 4 buds. The 4 buds grow and bloom. The 6 flowers that were already open wilt to nothing (which is actually not only interesting but has its own beauty). I love this time lapse for a number of reasons … there’s some much interesting action … you can watch each of the 10 flowers and see something different. And the colors are gorgeous, even in the wilting flowers the colors are special.

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  1. What has been your greatest obstacle in developing the time lapse videos? 

Even though my skill at the time lapse process has improved greatly due to have done several 100 at this point, there is one big challenge that remains: Anticipating how the flowers will move as they open. Sometimes the flowers will drop in height as they open. Other times they’ll move up towards the lights I’m using. Sometimes some blooms will drop while others move upward. It’s a crap shoot. I try to have the view framed to allow for these shifts, but often … too often … the shift is more dramatic than I anticipated and the result is a bust.

  1. echinopsis-cacti-flowers-pink(a) How and where did you learn all your knowledge about videography and photography?

Prior to becoming interested in photographing cactus flowers three years ago, I’d never really been into photography/videography and didn’t own a DSLR type camera. Upon becoming interested I got my hands on a good many books and watched some of the great free resources on the net. I was really taken by the great photographer Harold Davis’ books and attended one of his workshops on using Photoshop to edit images. And then I went and made tons and tons of mistakes and learned from them.

  1. (b) What kind of equipment do you use?

I use a Canon 6D DSLR and an assortment of Canon lenses … most often the great Canon 100mm Macro lens. I use LED lights since they stay cool over the long period I am shooting images. I have an inexpensive light tent with a black backdrop that I set up in my “studio” (which is really a bathroom that ceases to serve its normal functions during cactus blooming season).

  1. (c) How long have you been studying echinopsis?

I became a full-fledged echinopsis addict 3 years ago.

  1. Is there an echinopsis season? If so, please tell us about it.

There is … where I live in Florida, Echinopsis bloom from April until October … the period of the year when it’s above 80F most days. One of the great things about Echinopsis vs. many other types of cacti is that many Echinopsis species/hybrids will bloom multiple times in a single season. I’d also note that different hybrids bloom at different times during the season. Some bloom early and are done. Others won’t start blooming until late summer or even early fall.

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  1. Have you ever worked with other types of flowering plants? If so, which ones?

Nope. I’m a one-trick pony.

  1. What is the best advice you can give for taking care of flowering cacti?

The single most important piece of advice is to not over-water, especially during winter months when cacti are virtually dormant. I don’t water my collection at all from November until March. Yes, the plants will shrivel and look awful. But at least they won’t die from root rot! I have a good many other suggestions about soil and fertilization and etc. on my echinopsis.com website … specifically this page: http://echinopsis.com/care

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Check out Greg’s Instagram @echinopsisfreak where he posts new timelapses regularly.

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