Drop Controller DIY

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One of the things that was evident after my week of playing with drops is that I think I had reached a limit with my current drop controller…

A while back I had bought two extra valves and spent not a small amount of time trying to set them up without a lot of success…

Problem being that without having almost macro rail micro adjustability on the valves to get the drops to land at the same time you need to be able to control each valve individually… unfortunately the HiViz controller doesn’t have that functionality so I just put the valves away and up until ‘drip week’ I hadn’t touched the drip rig at all…

Did some research and came across a guy called Martyn that had built his own controller on a breadboard using an Arduino Nano to control it… the spec was appealing… there was a PC app and an Android app to control it using USB or Bluetooth… individual control of valves, proper fine control over time and drop size values and totally DIY… was right up my street and was also very cheap to build parts wise…

I ordered up a load of parts…
Drop Controller DIY

The site has a guide for building a breadboard version and a perf board version… circuit diagrams were essentially the same but the breadboard version had a couple of nice extras so decided to use vero board instead and pick and choose between both circuit diagrams to build what I wanted…

Meant that I had to design the layout on the fly but to be honest thats half the fun 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

The vero boards I bought weren’t quite large enough for all the components but that was no bad thing… completed the PSU, valve, camera and flash control circuits on the one board… decided it was a good time to power up and test that it would hold its blue smoke in…

Drop Controller DIY

I used a second board for the Arduino Nano and Bluetooth board (which took a little time to arrive) and then using the Arduino IDE I loaded the ‘Sketch’ that Martyn had already written..
Drop Controller DIY

As I was waiting for the Bluetooth module I used the PC software over USB to test the controller

Happy with that…

A couple of days later the BT module turned up so did a quick test of the app and all was good…
Drop Controller DIY

Only thing I didn’t have at the moment was a project case as I wasn’t sure how much room the vero boards would take up once complete… it was while having a well deserved takeaway…
Drop Controller DIY

…that I had an idea 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

Sorted! 😀

On the subject of ‘ideas’… I had been looking at a better way to manage gels on the flashes… the lighting gel I was using was cheap enough so needed a suitably cheap solution… the various slide in filter housings were mostly around a tenner each… I had four flash guns so 40 quid seemed a bit excessive… I then found some perspex place name holders that were pretty much the perfect shape… less than a quid each too…

They needed a little bit of work to be where I wanted them…
Drop Controller DIY

So using a heat gun I carefully warmed the plastic up to bend it to the position I wanted..
Drop Controller DIY

..and cut the lighting gel to the right size… result 🙂
Drop Controller DIY

Time for a proper test… hooked up the controller..
Drop Controller DIY

Just used two flashes, one valve and plain water to test the controller… wanted to keep it simple so as not to introduce too many variables to the test..

The video shows the flashes in front bouncing off the plexi background but lighting wasn’t quite right so changed them to fire through a frosted piece instead…
Drop Controller DIY

Dialling in was much much easier… was nice having so much precision over the control… the increment/decrement feature is brilliant… takes far less shots to get results and tapping away at the app over Bluetooth just seems more efficient…

Most of the shots I took were just faffing about to get a feel for the hardware and software… I did process out a couple though just because…
Drop Controller DIY

Drop Controller DIY

Very happy with the results so far… looking forward to experimenting more and the next step is to add the other two valves in and see how that goes…

Some useful links…

Martyn’s drop controller website if you fancy having a go yourself…
http://www.dropcontroller.com/

Arduino website…
https://www.arduino.cc/

Martyn’s own site containing some nice info on Arduino stuff
http://www.martyncurrey.com/

<tuffty/>

Castle Combe Finals 2017

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As is tradition I am posting this a couple of weeks after the event 🙂

As you may have gathered by now my Castle Combe race posts rarely contained commentary of the day’s actual racing but more me ‘rambling’ on about my day… reason I say this is because I have been asked a few times ‘who won’… to which I generally reply with ‘I have no idea’… as to be honest I don’t actually follow the racing as such… I am there to support Bill if he needs it, to see friends with similar interests, soak up the atmosphere and take photos…

I don’t really feel inclined to become a journalist, there are plenty of other resources out there should you want to know more about the actual racing but for me its a day out with good friends indulging in my interests of cars and photography..

So… nice early start!… Bill took the Badgerwagon to shake her down after all the recent issues… the aim of the game was to finish in one piece with no major issues…

Was good to see the car there after all the issues…

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

…and of course Tony and the gang were there too…
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Qualy was at 9ish so didn’t have time to walk round the track and settle down for the day… ended up watching from the pits…

Bill got round unscathed with no issues (other than handling was a bit off) but Tony wasn’t so lucky… a coolant leak from Scaramanga’s car at Camp Corner caused Tony to spin and get t-boned to boot…
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Disappointing… so went and had breakfast and wandered off for the rest of the day to photograph the racing…

Bill had a decent day… car (despite not handling fantastically) survived the day and he ended up with 3rd in class… there were some nice cars there so I won’t ramble on anymore… here are a few pics from the day…

A few shots from the Porsche racing..
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Saloons…
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Monoposto’s… these were quite fun and a couple had motorbike engines… they sounded awesome 🙂
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

The GT’s of course… some nice machinery on track 🙂
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

…an Aston was there too… much love for this beauty…
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Unfortunately one of the silhouettes had rather a nasty crash just as I about to move from Old Paddock corner… was not the nicest thing I have ever seen…

The car in question was this one…
Castle Combe Finals 2017

Castle Combe Finals 2017

Thankfully he got out of the car ok… a little shaken up and went to the hospital just for a check over but shows how ‘safe’ (in relative terms) the cars are…

All in all though it was a good day’s racing and a great end to the season… looking forward to next year 🙂

<tuffty/>

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 🙂

<tuffty/>

Moon rise attempt 2

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Have been itching to get out and do some astro… been practicing with the tracker and watching loads of videos on youtube on image stacking and other such astrophotography related fun and games… I plan to have a go at the Andromeda Galaxy at the next available opportunity…

The weather has been pants but tonight (the night of the full moon!) its was forecast clear… being in the full moon phase kills any chance of astrophotography without special filters (H-Alpha) so decided to try for a moon rise…

What I didn’t realise until I got back home to edit was that this was in fact the Harvest Moon…

Happy with the result 🙂

Moon rise attempt 2

I have some time off towards the end of the month so planning some splash pics and hoping for a clear night or two..

<tuffty/>

Audi Driver International 2017

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ADI was a little earlier than usual this year but I have been pretty busy of late so I am posting this a couple of weeks after the event 🙂

Wasn’t really feeling it this year but was a chance to get to meet a few old friends and to give the Badgerwagon a shake down after various issues meaning Bill missed the last couple of races…

Basically ended up walking around the track at Combe with my great mate Mark and his family stopping at Quarry, Old Paddock and Bobbies taking pictures…

This year was probably the quietest I have seen ADI… not many people there at all but I did take a few pics so here are a few of them 🙂

Early start and the weather looked promising…
Audi Driver International 2017

Starting in the paddock we have Kieth Murry’s rather impressive R8 that runs a turbo 2ltr valver engine!..
Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

The rather rare aluminium blocked 1.2tdi A2…
Audi Driver International 2017

Quite possibly my other favourite car on the day…
Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Off round the track now…
Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

And of course the Badgerwagon being put through its paces…
Audi Driver International 2017

Was a nice day all in all even though it was a little undersubscribed… not many cars on track so made it a little tricky to get much ‘theatre’ into the pics but was nice to spend time with great mate Mark and his family, taking pics and watching cars 🙂

Mark being taught how best to get a panning shot…
Audi Driver International 2017

Audi Driver International 2017

Was the little ones first day out at a track
Audi Driver International 2017

<tuffty/>

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

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Motorsport photography is something I tend to do quite a bit of… I’d like to think I am fairly proficient at it even though composition opportunities can be a bit limiting as I have to take pics like every other spectator does from the wrong side of the fencing…

At Castle Combe the ‘better’ places to take pictures are at Quarry corner (which tends to get rammed in the afternoon), old Paddock Bend and Bobbies… I used to spend a lot of time at Tower but in recent years they have put up quite a lot of catch fences making it fairly useless now…

Anyhoo I took my now fixed AE-1 along to Race 5 to try and see if I could get any trackside pics…

As the AE-1 is manual focus I had to pick a spot in the middle of the track focus on that and hope to press the shutter at the right time… of course I couldn’t check if I was getting any decent results seeing as it was film :/

My muscle memory for the DSLR let me down on a fair few occasions… I was primarily forgetting to wind the film on and the loose push/pull zoom of the Canon 70-210mm f4 FD lens I was using didn’t help so took me a little while to dial all that in… I ended up using the AE-1’s Tv mode (as this is what helped win it awards for being a sports camera by all accounts) and hoped it would make taking images a little easier..

Anyway I now have the images back from processing… I ran the scanned TIF’s through Lightroom to mostly tweak exposure (using Tv mode seemed to over expose the images a bit), clean up ‘dust’ (which I am sure is from the scanning process!) and crop…

So here are the less out of focus shots 🙂

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

I know where I went wrong with this exercise… I need to pre-focus on one spot and fix the framing area and always take the shots in that area… I am too used to AI-Servo AF and 6fps burst so found myself ‘over panning’ and never taking the shot in the pre-focused zone…

I took the Nikon F-501 to the recent bank holiday race day so be interesting to see what the results of 1980’s servo AF is like…

To finish up with I also took a few paddock shots… handling the AE-1 for mostly static subjects seems a lot easier but my old man eyes still struggle a little getting the focus half about before the subjects get bored and move out of shot 🙂
Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Using the Canon AE-1 for motorsport

Always something to learn with photography even if it is from using 1980’s technology 🙂

<tuffty/>

Partial eclipse of the sun

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So this evening there was a partial eclipse of the sun… wasn’t holding out much hope of capturing it as the weather had clouded over an hour before it was due…

Decided to head out to a spot where I knew I could capture the sun on its way down either way… rather be there and not get it than not be there and miss it 🙂

Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Was pretty bright but still potential for the sun to hide behind the cloud so stuck it out… took a snap of a lonely air ballon… would have a great view of the eclipse if it happened from there 🙂

Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Was really not looking good as the time for the eclipse approached….

Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

…and then…
Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Yessssssss!!!…. 😀

Slowly and surely the sun broke out of cloud cover with the moon doing its thing…
Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Was well happy… even the cows looked mildly a mooooos’d (see what I did there lol)
Partial eclipse of the sun 2017

Now I just need to get a milkyway shot before its too late 🙂

<tuffty/>