John Ott

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John Nash Ott
Born October 23, 1909
Died April 6, 2000(2000-04-06) (aged 90)
Residence Sarasota, FL
Occupation Photographer
Medical research
Known for Time-lapse photography
Light therapy
Full-spectrum light
Founder of OttLite
Website OttLite Technology

Dr. John Nash Ott (October 23, 1909 – April 12, 2000) was a photographer and cinematographer who developed many modern photographic practices, including time-lapse photography and full-spectrum lighting.


He began his career as a banker, but he soon became interested in photography. His interest in time-lapse photography led to a well-known career in cinematography and, as a result, he performed important research about the effects of natural lighting on plants, animals and humans.

Initially, Ott's interest in time-lapse movie photography, mostly of plants, was just a hobby. Starting in the 1930s, Ott bought and built more and more time-lapse equipment, eventually building a large greenhouse full of plants, cameras, and even self-built automated electric moving camera systems (the first movie camera motion control systems ever built) for moving the cameras to follow the growth of plants as they developed. He even time-lapsed his entire greenhouse of plants and cameras as they all worked, a virtual symphony of time-lapse movement. His work was featured on an episode of the second incarnation of the request TV show, You Asked For It, in the late 1950s.

Ott also discovered that movement of plants could be manipulated by varying the amount of water that plants were given, and varying the color temperature of the lights in the studio, with some colors causing the plants to flower and other colors causing the plants to bear fruit. Ott even discovered ways to change the gender of plants merely by varying the light source color-temperature.

By using such techniques, Ott time-lapse animated plants "dancing" up and down in sync to prerecorded music tracks. The film, completed in the 1950s, was titled Dancing Flowers.

His cinematography of flowers blooming in such classic documentaries as Walt Disney's Secrets of Life (1956) pioneered the modern use of time-lapse on film and television. Ott wrote a book on the history of his time-lapse adventures, My Ivory Cellar (1958).

Ott's experiments with different colored lighting systems and their effects on the health of plants led to experiments with colored lights on the health of animals, humans, and then on individual cells, using time-lapse micro-photography. Ott's experiments led him to believe that only a full spectrum of natural light (including natural amounts of infrared and ultraviolet) could promote full health in plants, animals, and humans and led him to write his breakthrough book "Health and Light" (1973) advancing his theories. Such topics were also addressed in his film Exploring the Spectrum (1974).

Natural lighting products[edit]

Ott-developed proprietary lighting technology is still the closest replication to the sun's natural wavelengths[citation needed]. In 1989, entrepreneur Fred Mendelsohn started Environmental Lighting Technologies (doing business as Ott-lite Technologies) and worked with Ott to develop the technology into award winning products for businesses and homes. OttLite describes its "508 technology" as providing a balance of brightness and contrast that reduces glare and eyestrain and produces very low heat. The products, called "High Definition Natural Lighting," are marketed online and at lighting, crafting, and hardware stores worldwide.


  • My Ivory Cellar - Self Published? 1958. 
  • Ott, John N. (1973). Health and Light: The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man and Other Living Things. The Devin-Adair Company, Inc. ISBN 0-671-47433-2.  *Film: Dancing Flowers, John Ott, 1950s;
  • Film: Exploring the Spectrum, John Ott, 1974; Released as DVD in 2008 –
  • Ott, John (1985–1991). "Series of seven articles in seven issues". International Journal for Biosocial Research. 

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