Simple Photo Flash Trigger for Water Balloon Photography

Water Balloon Photography

There have been countless projects to make custom photo flash trigger circuits. Usually the circuits react to sound, triggering the camera flash at the moment a certain sound is triggered. That type of trigger can be used to detect the popping of a balloon or shattering of glass. Other triggers detect motion, like a projectile crossing a laser beam for example. [Udo's] friend had a fun idea to take photos of water balloons popping. Unfortunately neither of those trigger methods would be well suited for this situation. That’s when [Udo] had to get creative.

[Udo] built a unique trigger circuit that uses the water inside the balloon as the trigger. The core component of the circuit is an Arduino. One of the Arduino’s analog pins is configured to enable the internal pull-up resistor. If nothing else is connected to the pin, the Arduino will read 5 volts there. The pin is connected to a needle on the end of a stick. There is a second needle on the same stick, just a short distance away from the first. When these needles pierce the balloon’s skin, the water inside allows for a brief moment of conductivity between the two pins. The voltage on the analog pin then drops slightly, and the Arduino can detect that the balloon has popped.

[Udo] already had a flash controller circuit. He was able to trigger it with the Arduino by simply trying the flash controller’s trigger pin to one of the Arduino’s pins. If the Arduino pulls the pin to ground, it closes the switch on the flash controller and the flash is triggered. Both circuits must share a common ground in order for this to work.

All of the code for [Udo's] project is freely available. With such spectacular photographs, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these floating around.

Reverse Engineering a Wireless Studio Lighting Remote

Strobe Remote

If you want to take a photograph with a professional look, proper lighting is going to be critical. [Richard] has been using a commercial lighting solution in his studio. His Lencarta UltraPro 300 studio strobes provide adequate lighting and also have the ability to have various settings adjusted remotely. A single remote can control different lights setting each to its own parameters. [Richard] likes to automate as much as possible in his studio, so he thought that maybe he would be able to reverse engineer the remote control so he can more easily control his lighting.

[Richard] started by opening up the remote and taking a look at the radio circuitry. He discovered the circuit uses a nRF24L01+ chip. He had previously picked up a couple of these on eBay, so his first thought was to just promiscuously snoop on the communications over the air. Unfortunately the chips can only listen in on up to six addresses at a time, and with a 40-bit address, this approach may have taken a while.

Not one to give up easily, [Richard] chose a new method of attack. First, he knew that the radio chip communicates to a master microcontroller via SPI. Second, he knew that the radio chip had no built-in memory. Therefore, the microcontroller must save the address in its own memory and then send it to the radio chip via the SPI bus. [Richard] figured if he could snoop on the SPI bus, he could find the address of the remote. With that information, he would be able to build another radio circuit to listen in over the air.

Using an Open Logic Sniffer, [Richard] was able to capture some of the SPI communications. Then, using the datasheet as a reference, he was able to isolate the communications that stored information int the radio chip’s address register. This same technique was used to decipher the radio channel. There was a bit more trial and error involved, as [Richard] later discovered that there were a few other important registers. He also discovered that the remote changed the address when actually transmitting data, so he had to update his receiver code to reflect this.

The receiver was built using another nRF24L01+ chip and an Arduino. Once the address and other registers were configured properly, [Richard's] custom radio was able to pick up the radio commands being sent from the lighting remote. All [Richard] had to do at this point was press each button and record the communications data which resulted. The Arduino code for the receiver is available on the project page.

[Richard] took it an extra step and wrote his own library to talk to the flashes. He has made his library available on github for anyone who is interested.

Party photo printer built around a Raspberry Pi

We think [Brian Delacruz] latched on to a good idea with this photo printer project. Instead of building a big photo booth for his party he developed a Raspberry Pi based WiFi photo printer. Right now it’s a prototype that lacks the kind of polish necessary to make a true user-friendly device. But the idea is solid and just waiting for you to improve upon it.

In addition to the RPi he’s using a quality photo printer and a small wireless router. The router simply provides WiFi capabilities for the RPi which is running a web server, mySQL, and FTP. This provides a wide range of upload options which he can work with. Watch the video after the break to see him print a smart phone photo wirelessly.

This can be simplified by using a package like hostapd to use a USB WiFi dongle as an access point. Or if the venue already has Internet access a server could be set up with a QR code to guide people to it. The party starts off with an empty bulletin board and guests would be invited to print and hang their own photos which will go into the host’s guest book/scrap book to remember the event.

Your mug on an Etch a Sketch — automatically

[Jim's] pretty serious about his Etch a Sketch. He’s gone to the trouble of building a rig that will automatically render a photograph as Etch a Sketch art. Do you recognize the US political figure being plotted in this image? He actually cracks these open and removes all of the internals to preserve the artwork when the reassembled body is ready to be hung on a wall. But we like it for the hacker-friendly interface techniques he used.

He moves the knobs using a pair of stepper motors. They attach thanks to a pair of 3D printed gears he modeled which go over the stock knobs and secure with four set screws. He says he can be up and printing in five minutes using these along with the MDF jig that holds the body and the motors.

He converts photos to 1-bit images, then runs them through ImageMagick to convert them into a text file. A Python script parses that text, sending appropriate commands to an Arduino which drives the motors. The image is drawn much like a scanning CRT monitor. The stylus tracks one horizontal line at a time, drawing a squiggle if the pixel should be black, or skipping it if it should be white.

We wish there was a video of the printing process. Since we didn’t find one, there’s a bonus project unrelated to this one after the break. It’s an Etch a Sketch clock.

[Read more...]

Commercial webcam multi-touch coming soon

It looks like Toshiba has a webcam-based multi-touch display on the way. The video shows an iPod-esque photos album interface where the user stands in front of the display and manipulates it with both hands. The difference between this and some of the other multi-touch displays we’ve seen is that there is no touching necessary (goodbye fingerprints!). The user’s image is superimposed on the screen in a way that reminds us of the original Playstation Eye. Obviously this is much more refined, making us wonder if it’s the better camera, better processing, or both.

[Thanks Risingsun]

Daily photo aging project on steroids

We’ve seen those videos where people take a picture of themselves every day. [Dan Hanna] took it to a much further level.  He built a camera rig and took pictures of himself for 17 years.  That is not a typo, 17 years. The rig consists of a ring that holds two cameras opposing each other.  He centers his head facing a target that he increments around the ring every day before taking a picture.  The ring can be split into 4 sections for portability.  Check out the low resolution video after the break.

[Read more...]

Laser insect photography rig


[Marc] sent in this awesome insect photography rig. The camera is manually pre-focused and set for a 30 second exposure at ISO100. The aluminum cylinder in front of the lens is an external shutter mounted with a custom turned lens adapter. It’s used because the built in shutter is too slow for insect capture. The camera/shutter is triggered by a pair of lasers with photo detectors. When both beams are broken, the insect should be in front of the lens. A Garmin GPS provides position information that’s tagged on the image by the Nikon D200. A large photo of the rig is here, while a more detailed writeup on building it is here.

Update: It looks like we covered a previous version of this rig, but the old links are down and we didn’t have a shot of the setup. Oh, and I forgot to mention [Marc] new control box for running this rig.

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