Eclipse Megamovie: Thousands of Cameras for Citizen Science

On August 21, 2017, the Moon will cast its shadow across the entire breadth of the United States for the first time in almost a century. It is estimated that 12 million people live within the path in which the sun will be blotted out, and many millions more are expected to pour into the area to experience the wonders of totality.

We’d really love it if you would tell us where you’ll be during the eclipse by creating your own event page, but that’s not what this article’s about. With millions gathered in a narrow swath from Oregon to South Carolina, and with the eclipse falling on a Monday so that the prior two weekend days will be filled with campouts at prime viewing locations, I expect that Eclipse 2017 will be one big coast-to-coast party. This is an event that will attract people of all stripes, from those with no interest in astronomy that have only the faintest idea of what’s actually happening celestially, to those so steeped in the science that they’ll be calling out the exact beginning of totality and when to expect Baily’s Beads to appear.

I suspect our readership leans closer to the latter than the former, and some may want to add to the eclipse experience by participating in a little citizen science. Here’s how you can get involved.

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How to Take Pictures of PCBs

While we’ve covered light box builds and other DIY photography solutions, general picture-snapping tips and tricks are a bit out of the purview of what we normally write about. Nevertheless, [Alain] just put up a great tutorial for taking pictures of PCBs. This is a great skill to have — no one cares about what you’ve built unless you have a picture of it — and the same techniques can be applied to other small bits and bobs of electronic equipment.

As with all matters of photography, light is important. [Alain] built a DIY light box using two cheap outdoor square LED panels and some scrap wood. There’s really nothing to this build: just build a box that holds soft, diffused light.

A camera is a little more complicated than a box, and here [Alain] is using an entry-level DSLR with a kit lens. The takeaway here is to set the aperture to the highest number (or smallest hole) possible while still keeping a reasonable shutter speed. This increases the depth of field and produces a picture where the board and the tops of components are in focus.

There are a few more tips for getting the best PCB pics possible including shooting in RAW for Aperture or Lightroom, getting a macro lens, and using a tripod. Like all things, there’s a law of diminishing returns, and even with a smartphone camera and a DIY light box, you can produce some fantastic pics of PCBs.

Byte Magazine Nostalgia Photo

Those of us who remember when microprocessors were young also recall the magazines of the era. Readers bought the magazine for content but the covers attracted attention on the newsstand. In the late 70s until the early 90s the competition was fierce, so great covers were mandatory. The covers of Byte magazine created by [Robert Tinney] were detailed, colorful, and always interesting.

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[Bob Alexander] of Galactic Studios recreated one of those hand drawn covers using photographic techniques. The cover shows a steam engine, tender and caboose rolling along the traces on a PC board amidst a landscape populated by resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits. The photographic clone recreates that image using all real components, including an HO train. The circuit, unfortunately, isn’t of a working device.

Creating this work followed all the normal hacking steps for a PC board: a mockup of the layout, designing the board, and ordering it from China. Component procurement was sometimes a hassle since some are no longer in production. The components that weren’t found on EBay were hacked.

The only image manipulation involved the HO train. It was much larger than the PC board so could not be put in place for the photo. Images of the PC board and the train were merged using software. Also added were smoke rings puffing out of the locomotive’s smokestack.

The photo is a worthy recreation of [Tinney’s] original.

For more trainy goodness, check out our own Brian Benchoff’s tour of the Siemens Model Train Club.  Or for further photo-realistic modelling, have a look at this insanely detailed Ford pickup model.

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone with WiFi Photo Booth

[kitesurfer1404] put together a nice looking vintage photobooth with WiFi capability. He’s using an arduino to monitor the state of the buttons, LED lighting control, seven segment display AND the DSLR camera. He then uses a Raspberry Pi to control imagine processing and to provide scaling and other effects, which can take up to 20 seconds per image. The Pi runs in WiFi Access Point mode, so anyone with a WiFi capable device can connect to the photo booth and view the images.

We’ve seen some interesting twists on photo booths before. But [kitesurfer1404’s] vintage style makes his stand out all on its own. He designed the graphics with Inkscape and printed them on thick paper. He then soaked the graphics in tea for several hours and dried then for several more days to get that nice rustic look.

Be sure to check out [kitesurfer1404’s] site for full details and an assortment of high resolution images of his project.

Adding a Digital Back to a Sweet Old Camera

[Eugene] wanted to use his vintage Leica M4 as a digital camera, and he had a Canon EOS 350D digital camera sitting around unused. So he Frankensteined them together and added a digital back to the Leica’s optical frontend.

It sounds simple, right? All you’d need to do is chop off the back from the EOS 350D, grind the digital sensor unit down to fit into exactly the right spot on the film plane, glue it onto an extra Leica M4 back door, and you’re set. Just a little bit of extremely precise hackery. But it’s not even that simple.

Along the way [Eugene] reverse-engineered the EOS 350D’s shutter and mirror box signals (using a Salae Logic probe), and then replicated these signals when the Leica shutter was tripped by wedging an Arduino MiniPro into an old Leica motor-winder case. The Arduino listens for the Leica’s bulb-flash signal to tell when the camera fires, and then sends along the right codes to the EOS back. Sweet.

There are still a few outstanding details. The shutter speed is limited by the latency in getting the signal from the Leica to the 350D back, so he’s stuck at shutter speeds longer than 1/8th of a second. Additionally, the Canon’s anti-IR filter didn’t fit, but he has a new one ordered. These quibbles aside, it’s a beautiful hack so far.

What makes a beautiful piece of work even more beautiful? Sharing the source code and schematics. They’re both available at his Github.

Of course, if you don’t mind completely gutting the camera, you could always convert your old Leica into a point and shoot.

Sound blimp makes camera quieter and waterproof

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The D-SLR “crunch” sound can be pretty satisfying. Your camera has moving parts and those cell-phone amateurs can eat your shutter actuation. If you’re a professional photographer behind the scenes on a sound stage or at any film shoot, however, your mirror slapping around is loud enough to get you kicked off the set. [Dan Tábar] needed his D800 to keep it down, so he made his own sound blimp to suppress the noise. As an added bonus, it turns out the case is waterproof, too!

[Dan] got the idea from a fellow photographer who was using a prefab Jacobson blimp to snap pictures in sound-sensitive environments. Not wanting to spend $1000, he looked for a DIY alternative. This build uses a Pelican case to house the body of the camera and interchangeable extension tubes to cover lenses of various sizes. [Dan] took measurements and test-fit a paper cutout of his D800 before carving holes into the Pelican case with a Dremel tool. One side got a circular hole for the extension tubes, while the other received a rectangular cut for the camera’s LCD screen and a smaller circle for the viewfinder.

Lexan serves as a window for all of the open ends: LCD, viewfinder, and the lens. [Dan] snaps pictures with a wireless trigger, saving him the trouble of drilling another hole. You can hear the D800 before and after noise reduction in a video after the break, along with a second video of [Dan] trying out some underwater shots. If you’d rather take a trip back in time, there’s always the 3D printed pinhole camera from last week.

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The best photo booth for really small stuff

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[Doog] builds plastic models, and like anyone who makes really small stuff, he needed a good photo booth to show off his wares and techniques. He was working with the very common ‘poster board and work light’ setup we’ve all put together, but after photoshopping seam lines one too many times, he decided to upgrade his booth to something a little better.

The new setup consists of an aluminum frame with a 40×80 inch sheet of translucent plexiglass forming the bottom and backdrop of the booth. Two lights in diffuser bags illuminate the subject from the top, while the old worklights are attached to the bottom of the table frame to light the subject from beneath.

Compared to the ‘poster board and work light’ technique of the past, [Doog]’s new photo booth is absolutely incredible for taking pictures of very small things. This model of a Spitfire looks like it’s floating and this snap of a Thunderbolt is good enough to grace magazine covers.

Of course this photobooth isn’t just limited to models, so if you’re looking at taking some pictures of hand-soldered BGA circuits in the future, you may want to think about upgrading your studio setup.