Turning spotlights into soft LED nightlights

led_spotlight_retrofit

[Bob] had a couple of bright, 12V halogen spotlights in his hallway that didn’t get much use. Rather than toss them out or leave them sitting idle, he decided to replace the bright bulbs with dimmer LEDs that he could keep lit through the night.

He opened up the spotlights, removing the bulbs and the built in mirrors before fitting them with 350mA LED pucks. The pucks were mounted to a pair of L-shaped aluminum scraps, which serve as both a mounting plate and heatsink. When running, the underdriven LEDs barely heat the aluminum plates, so he is pretty confident that the lights are adequately cooled.

The orange LEDs provide a nice warm glow in his hallway, and he says they are perfect for late night trips to the fridge. They currently stay lit all the time, but [Bob] is considering adding a light sensor to turn them on them automatically, as well as a PIR sensor to increase the brightness as someone passes by.

DIY softboxes light your photos on the cheap

diy_softboxes

Softboxes are often considered a must-have piece of equipment when doing any sort of portrait or studio photography. While they are not the most expensive photography accessory, they can be built far cheaper than you would pay for an off the shelf model.

[Don] needed a softbox for his studio, and he ended up constructing a fairly nice one out of a styrofoam cooler. He mounted an outdoor light receptacle inside the cooler after laying down a reflective backing, bolting everything to a piece of plywood situated on the back of the cooler. He stretched some white cloth over the front to diffuse the light, and then mounted it on a light stand. You can see a video of the construction process below, as well as additional softbox-lit images on his site.

[Aud1073cH] had a similar need for a softbox, but went about his construction a bit differently. He grabbed a lampshade and a white dress shirt at a thrift store, stretching the shirt over the bottom opening before securing it with Velcro. He mounted the lampshade on a light stand, inserting his camera’s speed light through the smaller lampshade opening. As you can see in his photostream, the softbox does a great job at softening the shadows in his pictures.

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Automatic trigger for lightning photography

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[Vicktor] has always been fascinated by photographs of lightning and decided to try his hand at capturing a few strikes on his camera. Every time he attempted it however, he didn’t have much success. Instead of trying to operate his camera manually to take the images, he decided to build a lightning trigger that would do it for him.

His circuit uses a large photodiode to sense when lightning strikes, triggering the camera via a hacked shutter release cable. A PIC micro controller is used to adjust the sensitivity of the device, as well as to send the actual trigger signal to the camera. His circuit is connected to the camera via a pair of opto couplers to ensure that his circuit cannot cause any harm to the camera.

When the box is powered on, it enters a calibration mode where the user can adjust the circuit to compensate for whatever amount of ambient light is present. Once armed, the box waits for a sudden change in ambient lighting, sending the exposure release signal to the camera.

A schematic is available on his site, and he will send you the code he use on request. There is currently no video of the trigger in action, but hopefully we’ll see one soon.

If you’re interested in seeing some other remote camera triggers, check out this one made from air freshener parts, and this one which uses lasers.

Shedding some light on your kitchen chores

led_light_bar

[Garret] over at Macetech wanted to supplement the lighting over his kitchen sink, which is always too dark at night. He says his house is a “geek house”, so a standard light socket just wouldn’t do – he would have to construct a LED bar for over the sink instead.

Since nobody wants to use a light switch with wet or messy hands, he did what anyone would do and rigged up a motion detection circuit to automatically turn the lights on and off for him. 16 bright white 10mm LEDs were mounted in some foam core board, along with a PIR motion sensor. He used an ATiny84 to handle the PWM fade-in and fade-out of the lights, as well as to keep track of the activity (or lack thereof) at the sink.

He does admit that the ATiny84 is way overpowered for this project, but he lacked anything smaller, and says that 555 timers wouldn’t give him the smooth light fading that he desired. Regardless, it works as advertised, and now nobody has to peel potatoes in the dark any more.

Continue reading to check out a quick video demo of the motion-sensing light system.

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NES game pad wireless light commander

NES_wireless_light_switch

Annoyed that the new lights he bought for his apartment lacked power switches, Instructables user [p.arry.drew] decided to install a pair of wireless light switches. Not content to use the remotes separately, he decided to see if he could cram them both into an old NES controller, making for a nice all-in-one wireless light commander.

He disassembled the light switch remotes, cutting off a bit of the battery contacts to ensure they fit in the game pad. He then pulled apart his NES controller, removing the cord and adding some foam padding to ensure that the buttons fully contacted the wireless switches when pressed. A few bits of wooden dowel were added to keep everything in place, then the controller was reassembled.

His creation makes for a very convenient method of controlling several light switches from once source, plus the packaging is pretty handsome as well. These remote light switching solutions seem to be all the rage lately, so keep them coming!

Read on for a quick video of his remote light switches in action.

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DIY emergency lighting system

diy_emergency_lighting_system

When the power goes out at home, what do you do? Most of us probably scramble around the house looking for a flashlight. [Gigawatts] wanted a better solution, so he built an emergency lighting system based off a standard household UPS. A while back he had constructed a relay-switched outlet box to help periodically restart his cable modem which would get hung up a little too often for his liking. Since changing Internet providers, he no longer needed the switched outlet box, and was looking for a way to reuse it.

He hooked up the outlet box into the “battery powered” side of the UPS, and inserted a light bub into the normally closed half of the switch box. A 5v power supply was hooked into the “surge protection only” side of the UPS and is used to keep the relay switched. This causes the half of the switch box that is normally closed to remain open, and the light switched off. When power is lost, the 5v supply no longer switches the relay, and the light is turned on – powered by the UPS battery.

This is quite a useful hack if you happen to have a spare UPS sitting around – it sure beats scrambling around searching for a flashlight in the dark!

LED lighting, a learning experience

[Joel] has a very specific color temperature of lighting he wants in his home. So specific, he’s decided to build his own LED lighting to get it. Actually, he’s still searching for that perfect shade of white, but doing so has learned a lot.  He initially made some very pretty PCBs, but then found that hand soldering them made quite a mess. What better time to delve into reflowing? He shares his positive initiation to the skillet method in his latest update. The search still continues for that nice warm glow he’s desiring. We’ve actually seen [Joel] before, he likes smoked meat.

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