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/>

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/>

Last post of 2016…

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Last post of 2016...

Been a funny old year… relatively uneventful from my perspective I guess other than my nan passing on but the lasting thought of 2016 has got to be the number of celebrity deaths…

Lets hope 2017 is a little better in that respect :/

Anyhoo… not posted for a little while so bit of an all in one update type thang…

Managed to break the S3… something is not happy at the back and shakes the car fairly badly when I go over 15mph… I have bought a replacement diff/haldex/controller for not a lot of money so will just chuck that in (after painting it of course)

Last post of 2016...

Will deal with that in the new year…

My dad lent me the use of one of his cameras… not just any camera but a film camera… been a while since I have used film so looking forward to playing with it… couldn’t see the point in doing colour images with film as there is nothing it really offers over digital for hold any interest to me but black & white is a different matter…
Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

The Nikon F-501 is a little more advanced than ye-olde film cameras having a built in light meter and AF (albeit very rudimentary) but I love the feel of the camera and that you have to think a little harder about taking a shot… its a little frustrating waiting to see the results and I am about half way through the roll of film but hopefully I will have some decent results from it..

Looking forward to trying to up my game with motorcross shots in the new year… 70-200 f2.8 should hopefully net me some decent captures assuming I can get into a decent position… I like the subject isolation f2.8 can provide so will be hopefully getting some nice candid shots from it…

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Had a nice two week break over Christmas so rebuilt the drip rig to try and make it more stable and easier to setup…
Last post of 2016...

Should make results more consistent and now have triple splash capability… that side of it needs work though as I need to play with the valve positioning to ensure they all hit at the same time… in the mean time I took a few images to get the rig dialled in on one valve..
Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Another little project I played with over Christmas was flower macro’s… as always with things like this I tend to learn loads from the exercise and this time it was to go to a florist rather than Tesco for flowers…

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

As I mentioned before my Nan passed away… she was two weeks off her 100th birthday so we celebrated it anyway…
Last post of 2016...

Was nice to meet up with family I hadn’t seen for a while and decided to capture an image to help me remember her by… We have always told our children that when someone dies they become a star in the night sky so I waited for a clear night and took a picture I call ‘Chatting with Nan’…
Last post of 2016...

To finish up, here are a few random pics I have taken since my last post…
Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Last post of 2016...

Happy new year 🙂

<tuffty/>

Random post out the nowhere!

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Been quite busy recently hence lack of updates so here is a biggish one…

I have had a week off work to clear up my office which quite frankly had turned into a tip…

Office Cleanup

Office Cleanup

No real excuse other than general laziness so felt it was about time I actually did something about it… so after removing 8 old PC’s, 4 old laptops, recycling no end of boxes and paper, 12 big bin bags of rubbish and what seemed like an eternity of paper shredding I got the ‘living’ space somewhere handy…

Office Cleanup

Office Cleanup

Well worth the effort although I do have a little more to do yet but I have at least broken the back of the job and the rest should be relatively easy to manage…

In other news I have been playing with electronics…. its been a fair few years since I have done any serious electronic project assembly but armed with a kit of parts I built a drip controller and trigger unit to do splash photography… I won’t bother going into detail as I’ll post links at the bottom with all the info but here are a few pics…

Drip controller…
Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

Multi-trigger
Drip Kit

Drip Kit

The multi trigger has essentially one output to trigger a flash so as I need the ability to trigger more than that I made a distribution ‘manifold’ to fire up to 5 flashes simultaneously… I do have wireless triggers but there is a small amount of lag in firing that can be tricky to dial out so this will alow the flashes to be triggered via PC Sync…

Drip Kit

Drip Kit

The setup is a little heath robinson at the moment while I refine it but it does work as you will see in a bit…
Drip Kit

The setup works like this… the drip controller can release up to three drips per triggered event and you control the size and time between drips to create different collision effects… the multi-trigger uses an optical interrupter to trigger a delay before firing the the flashes… the camera can be triggered from either control unit but I am using the splash controller as this seems to work best in dealing with the inherent shutter lag of a DSLR.

The flash guns are set to manual at a speed of 1/64 to be able to freeze the splashes with minimum motion blur.

Using a suitable tray full of water and a background of some description you fire the flashes at that to bounce light back to the splash…

In fairness its a little more involved than that but this isn’t a tutorial, there are plenty of those on the web and a fantastic e-book I got from Corrie White who does some amazing Liquid Drop Art (links at the end) which has great info in it…

So, spent a bit of time playing with the settings trying to dial the rig in… this took me a little bit of time and god knows how many images but here are a few of my initial results…

Using square patterned wrapping paper as a background…
Liquid Drop Art

Liquid Drop Art

Using very reflective shiny red wrapping paper as a background…
Liquid Drop Art

Liquid Drop Art

Just using a frosted perspex background…
Liquid Drop Art

Liquid Drop Art

Finally a go at reflection…
Liquid Drop Art

Unfortunately the water was getting a little dusty at this point so not the best image but it was more to learn the technique than anything…

Pleased with the results and absolutely knackered from humping a ton of crap from the loft to the car and then to the recycling centre… I feel that this week I have single handedly saved the planet… and I didn’t have to wear sandals to do it either 😉

More drip art very soon 😀

Links:
Drip controller kit
Corrie White (Liquid Drop Art)
Drop photography guide

<tuffty/>

Fun with macro

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I have had a macro lens for a while but haven’t really used it much… with the weather being a bit rubbish and the sun being too high at this time of year to make sun rise/set pics or astro pics realistic on a ‘school night’ I thought I’d dust it off…

I am not an insect person… not really keen on them at all and hate spiders in general… most macro photography seems to be insect related though which made finding inspiration a little difficult at first but thankfully there is a thread on POTN that is dedicated to none insect macro which is an interesting read.

Here are a couple of my initial shots…

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

This one was particularly tricky… working with a shallow DOF and a lively cat with manual focus…
Fun with macro

Fun with macro

This one needs some work on the technical aspect but the premice is to get a background object reflecting through the drop in sharp focus… the object in question was a box of Walkers crisps… nearly worked 🙂
Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

I then had a quick go at water drops… this is trickier than it looks…
Fun with macro

The water drops stuff really caught my interest and after a bit of reading up it seems there is some nifty kit available to facilitate this type of photography… most of it is relatively expensive, more money than I was prepared to spend just to take pics of splashes so I do what I normally do in situations like this and improvised 🙂

Tried using a small plastic bag filled with water then pricked a hole in it using a needle… this worked ok and I used my intervolometer to take a series of shots…
Fun with macro

The results were ok… there will inevitably be quite a few that you chuck away too of course
Fun with macro

Changed the white balance in post to alter the colour of this one…
Fun with macro

Fun with macro

All seemed a bit hit and miss and also had a play with the camera settings a bit too… I then changed the configuration a bit and just used a bit of tube as a pipette and manually timed the shots… this proved a little more successful but was quite awkward non the less
Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

Fun with macro

So… next thing I want to try is to improve on the rig… I found the paint roller tray a little on the awkward side due to its shape, I think I will look into something a little shallower with less features that cast shadows etc as the step in the roller tray would sometimes cast a shadow in the pics…

I need a more hands off dripper system… the bag was ok but wasn’t flow rate or drop size controllable but it did at least land drops more or less in the same place… using a ‘pipette’ had better control but was a little inconsistent where the drop landed as I was holding it at different angles each time I was taking the shot, the changes were minute but in macro its enough to move the result well out of frame

I am going to try an irrigation dripper valve… these are cheap (£3 for three valves on eBay) so all I have to do is rig up a reservoir for the water and use a bit of silicon vacuum hose to plumb it all up… that should give me more controllable and consistent results (I hope)

Until next time 🙂

Links:
POTN – Non Insect Macro thread

The comprehensive water drop photography guide

How to Photograph Water Drops with One Speedlight

<tuffty/>