Time-lapse photography with Clojure

Over the weekend I was experimenting with gPhoto, which is a photo tools suite, libgphoto2 library allows other frontends to be written for it, the idea here was to see if I can control a camera from Clojure because a drone without a camera is useless.

This time instead of calling libgphoto2 functions directly, I used a custom library to interact with libgphoto2 that way I only return/pass stuff that I am interested in, unlike my previous example on JNA which required a lot of byte counting to extract the information I needed.

For the ptp\lib, I basically took examples from gPhoto and chopped them into small functions to control various aspects of the camera,

  • ptp\init
  • extend\lens
  • retract\lens
  • preview
  • ptp\exit
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <gphoto2/gphoto2.h>

typedef struct{
  Camera *camera;
  GPContext *context;
} ptp_handle;

void* ptp_init(){
  ptp_handle* ptr = (ptp_handle*) malloc(sizeof(ptp_handle));

  ptr->context = gp_context_new();

  int retval = gp_camera_init(ptr->camera, ptr->context);
  if (retval != GP_OK)
    return NULL;

  return (void*) ptr;

CameraWidget* get_widget(CameraWidget* root, char* path[], int count){
  CameraWidget *config = root;
  CameraWidget *child;

  int i=0;
  for(i = 0 ; i < count; i++){
    gp_widget_get_child_by_name(config, path[i], &child);
    config = child;

  return config;

void toggle_capture(Camera *camera, GPContext *context, int state){
  CameraWidget *root;
  gp_camera_get_config(camera, &root, context);
  char* path[3]={"main","settings","capture"};
  CameraWidget *capture = get_widget(root,path,3);

  gp_widget_set_value(capture, &state);
  gp_camera_set_config(camera, root, context);

int extend_lens(ptp_handle* handle){
  return 1;

int retract_lens(ptp_handle* handle){
  return 1;

int preview(ptp_handle* handle, char *fn){
  int fd, retval;
  CameraFile *file;

  retval = gp_file_new(&file);
  if (retval != GP_OK)
    return 0;

  retval = gp_camera_capture_preview(handle->camera, file, handle->context);
  if (retval != GP_OK)
    return 0;

  retval = gp_file_save(file, fn);
  if (retval != GP_OK)
    return 0;

  return 1;

int ptp_exit(ptp_handle* handle){
  gp_camera_exit(handle->camera, handle->context);
  return 1;

You can compile it using,

gcc -I/opt/local/include/gphoto2 -c ptp_lib.c
gcc -L/opt/local/lib -dynamiclib -lgphoto2 ptp_lib.o -o libptp_lib.dylib

On the Clojure side,

(ns ptp.core
  (:use clojure.java.io)
  (:import (com.sun.jna Function Pointer)))

(System/setProperty "jna.library.path" "./")

(defn ptp [func ret & args]
  (let [f (Function/getFunction "ptp_lib" (name func))]
    (.invoke f ret (to-array args))))

(let [camera (delay (ptp :ptp_init Pointer))
      index (atom 1)
      running (atom true)]

  (defn start []
    (let [out-dir (file "prevs")]
      (if (not (.exists out-dir))
        (.mkdir out-dir))
      (ptp :extend_lens Integer @camera)
      (.start (Thread. (fn []
                         (while @running
                           (let [f (str "prevs/preview-" @index ".jpg")]
                             (ptp :preview Integer @camera f))
                           (swap! index inc)
                           (Thread/sleep 15000)))))))

  (defn stop []
    (swap! running not)
    (ptp :retract_lens Integer @camera)
    (ptp :ptp_exit Integer @camera)))

We initialize the camera, extend the lens and take one photo every 15 seconds. When done ffmpeg can turn the batch of photos in to a movie,

ffmpeg -f image2 -r 25 -i prevs/preview-%d.jpg \ 
-vcodec libx264 -vpre hq -crf 22 video.mp4

In order to play with the example, you need to compile ptp\lib.c using the instructions on the top of the file and place it in your working directory.

You also need to check if your camera is supported and if you are on Mac OS X you need to kill the PTP daemon before running the code.