Drip week

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Drip week

After what seems like an age I managed to grab a much needed week off work… originally I was planning to take a week off during the new moon period and hope for a clear night to have a crack at some deep sky object astrophotography… primarily the Andromeda Galaxy as it should be a relatively DSO to capture for a n00b..

But.. as is the way of things it didn’t work out… just as well as the weather wasn’t much use anyway… so decided to spend a bit of time with the drip rig and try and get to grips with it..

My drip rig has been evolving since I first put it together… one issue I have is space… well the lack of it… I had to make the rig fit in a tight area in my office and be able to be disassembled easily and packed away as required…

Another issue is lighting… due to the lack of space it makes it tricky to position the flashes… lighting the drips needs a degree of flexibility and much like studio lighting there are a few ways you can do it which will give various different looks to the end result.

I had already done a few series of images using just water but also wanted to play with thickening the water… the information on these mix ratios seems to be top secret… plenty of inference on what to use but not so much on mix ratios and effectiveness…

First job was to mix up some thicker water… the stuff generally used is xanthan gum or guar gum… I bought xanthan… not knowing how much I would need I bought a huge bag… turns out it was enough to last me and several others a life time lol…

After a bit of research I settled on 600ml warm/hot water (to help the gum dissolve) and 1/2 tsp of gum… I did try to stick it in a blender but that made it very thick indeed so I sprinkled it over the top whilst whisking it in… looked a little like this…
Drip week

Its not going to fully dissolve so it needs straining… for that I used an old t-shirt…
Drip week

It won’t pass through under its own steam (thick and disturbingly jizz like at this stage!) so you need to squeeze it through… you may need to do it a couple of times by which time you should be left with…
Drip week

I left the water mix to settle over night then tried a few test shots to get a feel for what I would need to do to improve things…
Drip week

Drip week

All seemed good but was obvious the rig was in need of some fettling…

First job was to upgrade the rig a bit to help make it less cumbersome to setup… I made a frame to hold the frosted acrylic sheet (to soften the flash) and stands for the flash guns…

Drip week

Drip week

Called it a day after that…

Following day I started off using the tray… this is large enough that you can get reflection shots… you can either use a background and bounce the flash off it or as I did in these fire through the acrylic sheet… I used coloured gels on the flashes to create the colour..
Drip week

Drip week

Lighting was tricky to dial in… still getting a feel for it and hindsight being what it is I think I might have approached this a little more systematically… problem is I had lots of bits to do to the setup to get it to the next level so was probably doing to much at once but hey ho..

Next thing to try was milk… I used full fat milk which has a thick viscosity… set this up a little differently for this series of shots…
Drip week

Drip week

Drip week

Drip week

Pleased with those results and demonstrates how viscosity affects the look… gives me something to aim for with the water mix…

The following day I went back to water… this time a thicker mix in the drop reservoir and a smaller drip ‘bowl’
Drip week

Adding a little colour to the drip reservoir fluid and composing with the camera dead on this time…
Drip week

Drip week

Drip week

Tried a couple of ‘crowns’ too
Drip week

Drip week

I learnt a lot from this weeks endeavours… Its been a little frustrating at times as I have been trying a little too hard to do too many things at once but my rig is a lot easier to manage now so its ready to evolve again…

The HiViz controller supports three valves but… you have no individual control over each one so you can’t dial each in to account for any subtle differences in the setup… I found that initially non of the valves would drop a single ‘drop’ at the same time even when meticulously aligned and levelled up… you would need to physically adjust the height to ‘tune’ which makes the rig a lot more complex so for now I have stuck to one valve..

The controller will release up to three drops but doing this (in my experience) is simply not reliable… I spent a lot of time trying to dial it all in one drop at a time… got a perfect two drop collision but then introducing a third drop seemed to throw all that out the window (I was only trying to make the 3rd drop visible in the frame rather than try anything too fancy at this time…)

I gave up with that for now and spent more time on the mixture… there is not a lot of info about it on the web… plenty of posts eluding to the ‘secret’ recipe but nothing conclusive… plus actual effectiveness is also dictated by the drip hardware (gotta love physics)…

I tried a few different mixes with varying degrees of success but each mix meant I had to recalibrate as the viscosity effected the timing of the drops… I found I had to increase the size of the drops to get them to even release from the valve.. this of course altered the dynamics which meant dialling back in again…

The other issue I had was dialling the flash controller in… the HiViz multi trigger 3 has a coarse and fine adjustment dial… you need to dial in initially with the coarse dial then tweak with fine… in reality the coarse is very coarse… I literally only moved it a hair and it made a huge difference an the fine tuning didn’t have enough in it to pull it back so it was quite a juggle..

I now plan to have a go at building this… http://www.dropcontroller.com/ Parts wise its quite cheap… you can control all the valves separately and accurately too

Will post about that when I get around to doing it of course 🙂

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LG G5 camera glass fix

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So somehow I managed to smash the glass on the back of my phone… think I may have stuck in my back pocket with my keys or something at some point but whats done is done…

LG G5 camera glass fix

Ordered a replacement bit of glass from a website called iParts4u… LG G5 Camera Lens and Bezel Replacement

The kit consists of the replacement glass and a pre-cut sticky pad…
LG G5 camera glass fix

I first powered down the phone and removed the battery (as you can on a G5)… then used a hot air gun carefully to gently warm up the adhesive holding the existing (broken) glass on the back of the phone… I used a pair of hooked tweezers to prise the glass out… if yours is just cracked rather than smashed like mine then you would need to use a plastic opening tool (like the ones I used to do my megapod) to try and hook under the edge of the glass without damaging the phone case..

LG G5 camera glass fix

Carefully peel the glass off… you may need to slide the tweezers under the glass once you have lifted it away enough to get underneath… once off I then blew the dust and broken glass away with a lens blower…
LG G5 camera glass fix

Aligning the sticky pad to the glass was fiddly especially with my eyesight lol but once done its then easy enough to stick the glass back on the phone using a bit of gentle pressure… make sure you have the orientation right as the opening in the glass is bigger for the wide angle camera than the normal camera
LG G5 camera glass fix

And done 🙂

Bit easier than changing the glass on an iPhone at least

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Pano head version 2 and a clear(ish) night

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I am a serial modder… I will mod just about anything if I can find a reason too… regular readers (all two of you… well maybe one… ok, just me!) may recall I modded a cheap and nasty panorama head (read here)… this was working fine but it was still a bit rough and ready and I couldn’t do multi-level panoramas as the arm was fixed…

So I grabbed another cheap rotating head and some cheap arca swiss rails… this gave me a more solid head with the ability to do multilevel pano’s

Re-calibrated the head for the no-parallax point on the Samyang as I wanted to try for a pano nightscape…

Zero’d for center…

Then 30 degrees rotation…

…and finally 30 degrees up…

Last night presented an opportunity to try it out…

Slight distortion on the electricity structure of course but this picture was made from two rows of 4 images (8 in total) so the head seems to work ok… just a pity light pollution is still high and subject matter is still a little unexciting (soz)

I took a few more pics to try stuff out while I was there…

I was out there a while but only really came home with those two captures… as is most of what I seem to do these days it was a learning exercise and I am happy that I can use the pano head at night

Not content with the last lot of mods to the head I moved onto the next weak point… the ‘L’ bracket… the 6D and Samyang/16-35L combo is heavier than the 50D and 10-18 EF-S… the ‘L’ bracket is quite thin so inspired by the 300 quid pano heads I have seen I bagged a cheap 30cm length of 20×40 aluminium extrusion from eBay (used to make frames for 3D printers) to make a sturdier bracket…

First I cut it into two sections, 100mm for the ‘foot’ and the remaining 200mm for the upright then tapped the bottom of the upright to take M6 bolts…

…then drilled and counter sunk the 100mm piece to attach it to the upright…

Next I fitted a couple of rivnuts to allow the bracket to be fixed to the arca swiss rail

Had to open the slots on the rail a bit to get the M6 bolts in…

Last thing was to drill the upright for the other head…

And job done…

The result is a really solid ‘L’ bracket and the whole head feels very sturdy indeed… just need to re-calibrate for no-parallax again 🙂

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Nexus 7 speaker fix

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The left speaker on my Nexus 7 has been buzzing badly for a little while now… I tend to use it more with headphones anyway but its annoying non the less…

Picked up some replacements on eBay for a couple of quid… they were used but tested and new parts don’t appear to be readily available so using a guide on iFixit I had a go…

Scariest bit was getting the back off as its not massively clear where you need to try and split the case but managed to do it without cracking the screen or the back so very relieved…

Remove the back

With the back off and following the guide I removed the relevant cables and the battery (although I didn’t really need to do this as it turns out)…

Disassembly

I loosened the motherboard rather than remove it completely as all I really wanted to do was change the dodgy speaker… the right one was ok and I tested them by unplugging them and plugging in the replacements before I started disassembly

Speaker removed

Connected everything back up…

reassembled

…and powered up to test before putting the back on…

Powered up

Tested the speakers with a film and some music on youtube… perfect!…

Was a little worried about doing this repair as it looked a fairly involved one but turned out to be not so bad in the end

Links:
iFixit – Nexus 7 2nd Generation Speakers Replacement

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Long lens stability….

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The problem with a large lens and heavy camera body is stability.. or the lack of…

When taking shots of the moon making fine adjustments on focus at full zoom (800mm with the 2x Extender) is problematic at best as the live view image shakes all over the place making it tricky to see if you have actually got the sweet spot and the image continues to shake briefly after you let go of the focus ring making matters worse.

This meant I was forever chasing focus to get the images sharp and by the time I had it where I wanted it the moon was about to exit the frame so I would have to reposition the camera and start all over again…

I also find myself taking quite a few shots before getting a keeper…

So did a little research which led me to large lens brackets some of which were veeeeery expensive… so I started looking at putting one together from the cheaper eBay based Arca Swiss accessories…

This is what I settled on…

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 21.35.54

Arca Swiss rail and support

Both came from eBay and cost less than £40… considering some of the brackets I had seen were knocking on the door of £200 it seemed a bargain

I used a cheap quick release plate for the lens foot mount (£4.50) as I had this on a spare tripod doing nothing

Using the Arca Swiss rail allows me to shift the centre of balance to make the rig easier to handle and track the moon

Obviously the proof is in the pudding so they say so seeing as the moon was up and the skies were clear it was rude not to try…

Twilight pic of todays moon…

The bracket has made a world of difference… not only is it infinitely less shaky whilst fine tuning the focus manually but the amount of shots I need to take to dial in a keeper is now substantially less… I took just 5 shots and didn’t even have to re-adjust camera position to grab this shot…

Pleased with the results I then waited until it was dark and had another go…

7 shots this time to get exposure right but all were pretty cock on focus wise…

Well happy with those results… and as a small celebration here is another ‘moon’ related pic… Luna my cat 😀

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Getting started in panoramic photography….

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As is normal for me and my hobbies I have a tendency to invest more time and effort in kitting myself out than actually doing the hobby itself… it was the same with my drums… spent more time building the kit than playing… hopefully this ratio will change with my photography…

With that in mind I recently ‘invested’ time researching panoramic photography and it ticks a few boxes for me… always had an interest in landscape images and pano’s seem a decent technical challenge over the normal landscape type photography…

Decent pano heads are massively expensive but generally consist of a rotating ‘L’ bracket… The one I really fancy is the Roundabout-NP Deluxe 5R… its around the £230 mark but built from girders and can handle 360 degree pano’s… I am not really interested in 360 pano’s and don’t really want to spend £230… even though it is a thing of billety goodness…

Roundabout-NP Deluxe

So I settled on spending very little and anticipating having to do a little work to make it usable…

Cheap Pano Head

It was just over £18 from Amazon and had all the basics there so all good apart from a few little things… the rotational mount was wobbly and the extended arm would sag a little with the weight of the camera on it so I set about doing a few mods…

First up the rotational mount… this was only clamped in one position and had a locating pin 90 degrees to it… with the weight of the camera it was a little unstable…

Rotational Mount

So I drilled and tapped the base to add some screws in and ground the ends on the bolts to a point to help locate in the track of the other half of head…

Modded head

Next up I wanted to sure up the extended arm…

Extended arm

I drilled and tapped the slide mount so I could add a couple of screws to stiffen up the arm…

Tapping the mount

…and voila!…

Modded extension arm

Unfortunately the rotational mount was still rubbish and fearing for my camera I bought something that was still cheap but more suitable for the job…

Pano Mount

All I can say is its simply perfect for the job… lovely smooth rotation, 15 degree markings to make it easier to pan and as stable as a stable thing…

With this fitted I proceeded onto setting the mount up properly to get the lens centred to the mount and to find the no-parallax point of the lens.

I found a few sites explaining this and have posted the links below as it will be easier to read them than me duplicate the info here but you essentially set the camera that to the entrance pupil of the lens is the centre point of rotation for the pano image… this prevents the images from distorting when stitched

I had already marked the centre of the mount so I used a needle and tread as a make shift plum bob to set the lens central to the tripod…

Centering the lens

I then used a bit of card on my other tripod to create a ‘sight’ to line up the entrance pupil of the lens… first dead ahead and centred…

Centered entrance pupil

Then 30 degrees off centre…

30 degrees off centre

…which as you can see it was out a bit… so moved the camera back on the extended arm until it was lined up in the sight…

Entrance pupil at 30 degrees

I also checked 30 degrees off centre in the opposite direction and was the same so happy that its all where it should be…

All done and ready to take panoramas…

Pano head setup

I took a couple of pics at the weekend including a near 360 (horizontally) of the Badger 5 workshop…

Badger5 Workshop

So for just under £45 and a small amount of tweaking have a fairly decent pano head…

As for software I have been using a fairly early version of Lightroom and Photoshop for quite a while but since acquiring a Macbook Air (will blog about this soon) I have started using the Adobe Creative Cloud on a photographers plan which gives me the latest version of both and some other benefits…

Canon supply Photostitch with the camera but it didn’t seem to do a brilliant job… Photoshop however seems to be able to do this with ease using the Photomerge automation…

I have some time off coming up so hoping to get out and try some proper scenic pano’s with the rig… will post up the results as and when they happen 😀

Links…

Panoramic bracket:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OBASVZQ

Panoramic head:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00RK2DVJI

Useful sites:
http://www.johnhpanos.com/epcalib.htm
http://wiki.panotools.org/Entrance_Pupil_Database
http://digital-photography-school.com/creating-a-panorama-with-photoshop-and-photomerge/
https://photographylife.com/panoramic-photography-howto

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Seven years on….

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While preparing for Audi Drivers International (one of the last VAG car shows of the year) it dawned on me that I have now had my S3 for 7 years… this is the longest time I have ever kept a car and the journey with her has been a roller coaster ride to say the least…

I put together a dyno graph of current power vs the power she left the factory with..

Dyno

…and my efforts to keep the car looking as standard as possible as I am a big fan of ‘sleeper’ cars, particularly under the bonnet where most modified cars look ‘modified’ 🙂

oem ++ engine bay

Over the 7 years of ownership she has given me a vast array of emotions… joy and plenty of pain (as anything with boobs or wheels will tend to do lol) but I wouldn’t change it for the world… More importantly she has introduced me to a new world of friends…

I have built on her roots to turn her into the car she is today and in turn she has built on me as a person…

I know this sounds a little sad to me talking about an inanimate object in such a fashion but through this car I have met people and had experiences that have enriched my life and I think that is the point…

There are people that think a car is just a means to get you from A to B… its a tool… its part of your life because it has to be… for me cars are a passion, they are a way of life and add value to it… I wish more people felt this way then there would be less idiots that seem to think its fine to open their doors into your car but we can all dream the dream huh 🙂

One last thing to say is that my car also seems to help others… I get told quite often that my build thread on Audi-Sport is an inspiration to them and helps feed others passion for their cars… this is quite humbling and I am happy that others get something out of this other than me…

I leave you with a few pics of the old girl…

My S3

Interior

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