Cheap Trigger for High-Speed Photography

A simple trigger for high-speed photography is the ‘tripwire’ trigger.  Unfortunately few (if any) commercially available flashes are configured for this trigger.  Thankfully, an Arduino-based trigger controller is very easy to make.  I will also shamelessly plug Edgerton, an open-source LED flash specifically designed for high-speed photography, that can be tripwire-triggered without any major hardware!

How It Works:

A small bracket must be built for the muzzle of your rifle (or whatever you are using).  Two pins protrude from the end of the bracket and a fine wire is wrapped between the pins.  The pins are connected to a port (I use a 3.5mm audio port) which can be connected to Edgerton or the trigger controller by an extension cable.

When the projectile exits the muzzle, it passes through the wire and breaks it.  The two pins, which were once connected by the wire, are now ‘open’.  Edgerton or the flash controller detects that the pins are separated and a timer is started.  After the timer finishes, the flash is triggered.

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Edgerton, A High-Speed LED Flash #DIY

2019-07-25 – The list price of the well-designed Vela One has recently dropped.  I originally quoted it at about $1,750 CAD but unfortunately don’t have any proof.  As of today, the Vela website indicates it is exactly $1,526.70 CAD. The archive.org website shows that the price has indeed fluctuated over time.

2019-08-01 – A big THANK YOU to NQTRONIX who has kindly gifted me an active light probe of his own design.  The probe will be used with an oscilloscope to measure the flash duration, trigger response time, light output -v- current, and other helpful things.  I will update this post with the data once testing commences.  NQTRONIX put a TON of time into designing, testing, and optomizing his probe.  Please consider checking out his instructable page and leaving him a like or comment!

2020-03-20 – Main control boards are available at https://www.tindie.com/products/19592/.

2020-07-01 – The ‘Mark 2‘ high-speed flash is complete!  The plans are available to build your own, or contact me if you’re interested in purchasing a strobe.


EDGERTON

Named in honour of the legendary Papa Flash.

Some time ago I designed and built a ballistic chronograph and used it to take some high-speed photos of bullets striking glass. The results were great, but the photos were somewhat limited by the standard ‘speedlight’ flashes that I used – there was always some motion blur. Edgerton is a ‘High-Speed Flash’ which uses LED’s to make one-microsecond flashes to freeze motion.

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H-alpha Imaging On The Cheap

This post is incomplete, but I hoped to begin sharing my tools and experience so others could hopefully benifit.

I’ve been stunned by some Hydrogen-Alpha (Ha) astrophotos.  Particularly when they’re combined with visible light photos (HaRGB and some other ways) the depth is stunning!

Unfortunately my astrophotography budget has been spent for the forseeable future.  This is my attempt to capture those photos using the following equipment:

  • Canon 1200D (T5) DSLR
  • 80mm Refractor Telescope and its infrastructure
  • Optolong 7nm Ha 2″ filter

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Automating GIMP

Let me be clear about something.  GIMP is probably my favourite piece of open-source software.  Truth told, I could have a license for Photoshop or PaintShopPro, and I would still use GIMP.  That’s because it is so focused on functionality over style – which means that, despite its limited development (it’s open-source after all), it is a program that has the horsepower to compete with the big players.  All you have to do is learn its quirky UI!

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Writing An ASCOM Local Server Driver

If you build an astronomy device and want to control it with some awesome PC software, then you need to write an ASCOM (AStronomy Common Object Model) driver.  There are great resources available for writing a single ASCOM driver for your DIY astronomy equipment.  Check out the video on the ASCOM website for a guide on writing a single-device driver!  But say, for instance, you have two devices (a Telescope and a Focuser) and would like to control them with one microcontroller.  Or say you want to control your telescope with Astrophotography Toolkit AND PHD2 at the same time.  Then you need to write a Driver Server!

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Guided Telescope Mount & Accessories (Tracker V3) #DIY

Astrophotography is a bit of a money pit.  I recently delved into it with my 80-200 f/2.8L and a home-built tracking mount.  It was so much fun that I decided to buy a telescope!  So my entire budget went into an 80mm APO.

The problem was that a telescope alone is useless for star pics – some quality infrastructure is needed.  This post is about my attempt to affordably build the following components:

  • High-precision Tracking Mount with an ASCOM-compliant driver
  • Guide camera and scope to help the tracking
  • Portable Power supply
  • Telescope Focusing motor with an ASCOM-compliant driver

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CNC Pancake Printer #DIY

Printing Pancakes With A Camera Dolly?

My kids are enthused by 3D printing, casually remarking about things they could ‘just print’.  Recently they asked to build a pancake printer – what a cool idea!

20181215_100232.jpg

I thought about how to build a simple batter extruder and gantry.  It didn’t take long to realize that IREnE, my new DIY camera dolly, is the perfect platform to use as a ‘theta-style‘ gantry!  So I set about adding pancake printing functionality to the camera dolly.

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Camera Timelapse Rig (IREnE) #DIY

PREAMBLE:

Note: As of August 26, 2019, the most incredible home-built camera rig award goes tomingul’s 8-Degree-Of-Freedom robot! It takes up an entire room and can be given gcode to perform some amazing camera effects.  My rig isn’t as cool, but much more mobile and simpler to build.

Camera sliders are fun tools to use for making dynamic timelapse videos, and they come with some cool features.  This is a clever little gadget that moves like a camera slider but folds much smaller.  Eggtimers are also commonly used to make a similar effect.  Some high-end gear can slide and rotate the camera at the same time for a particularly cool effect.  But how do you guild one that one that could go up to 11?

IREnE (Inverted Radial, Extension, Eggtimer) is not only named for the clever woman (nee Adler) who outsmarted Sherlock Holmes , but also the clever functions it can perform.  The ‘Inverted Radial’ is the slider’s defining feature which doesn’t seem to be possible on any consumer camera sliders.  It moves the camera in a circle around the foreground subject in a way that keeps the subject in view while the background view is constantly changing.  Here are some examples:

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MIKRO-CHRONOGRAPH (ATTiny85 Camera Intervalometer) #DIY

Camera-Mounted Intervalometer

PREAMBLE:

A friend and I set out to build a camera intervalometer for DSLR cameras.  Instead of following one of the many build guides available online, we decided to design our own – The Mikro-Chronograph.  Check out the feature list:

  • 2x AA batteries with a ridiculously long battery life
  • LED display functions in any temperature (eg. Canadian winter) and has fancy features such as scrolling text and swirling icon
  • Tiny!
  • Encoder/button combo input is very simple and intuitive
  • Very fast to setup: Initial Delay, Shutter On Time, Shot-Shot Delay, and Number of Shots
  • Automatically load the last settings each time the intervalometer is turned on (with EEPROM wear levelling algorithm, it will easily outlast a professional camera)
  • Can be extensively customized without reprogramming, including screen orientation & brightness, input styles, clock speed calibration, and memory behaviour
  • Safe to use with any DSLR, thanks to the optoisolator
  • Price Tag: less than $20 CAD

If you want to build one, just get the components listed, wire them up on a PCB board (look at the photos below for a layout guide), program the ATTiny85 with the available code, and build a case.  All of the details can be found on Google Drive.  The 3D printed case designs are on Thingiverse.

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