Macro photography focus stacking rig

The other day I saw this link from dsvilko and thought it was a really good idea. He uses the sled from a cd or dvd player to accurately position a subject for macrophotography. If you have never tried it before, then shooting something macro usually means that there is very light coming in to the camera and it makes manually focusing something (by twisting the lens) almost impossible.

Initially I wanted to directly duplicate dsvilko’s rig, but the sled I have doesn’t have the belts traveling in the same direction as his, so there was no easy way for me to replace the dc motor with a stepping motor. I decided to just roll with the punches and stick with what I had. By limiting the amount of time the motor was on I could build a reasonable facsimile of a repeatable step. I am currently moving the sled in 20 millisecond periods.

I directly soldered wires to the existing motor’s terminals. I zip tied them to the sled and then started work on the arduino side of things. I am using a l298 h bridge motor driver to control the motor. It takes 3 wires from the arduino. Two wires control the direction of the motor, and the third turns it on.

more after the jump

What do vendors gain by making closed hardware?

I have a Hp mini netbook, an xbox, a canon 7D dslr, a canon powershot point and shoot camera and an iphone.
The netbook is a hackintosh.
The xbox has a mod chip so it can act as a media server.
The powershot is running CHDK which enables an intervalometer and motion detection.
The iPhone is jailbroken so I can run non “approved” apps on it.
I paid full price for all of those devices and I haven’t caused any direct monetary loss for the producers of those devices. I consider that a win-win situation. The hardware manufacturer makes good hardware, and then I am able to do something with it that was not initially considered by the manufacturer. I paid for it, I should be able to modify it.

When I bought the 7D I knew that there was a ‘hacking’ effort underway and I was looking forward to some day when it would bear fruit. I have checked in every few months since then and I finally realized that instead of bearing fruit, Canon has killed the tree. With each consecutive firmware update, canon has locked the hardware down more and more. They have made it harder to develop for and now it is at the point where development has stopped. How does this help canon sell even one more camera?

I honestly don’t expect them to go out of their way to help us hack their hardware. I do expect them to help their bottom line by making innovative hardware cheaply, and making it as flexible as possible so that huge numbers of people buy it. Their continued efforts to encrypt and lock down the firmware on their cameras confuses me because their cameras still have a lot of flaws. The time that their programmers and engineers put into “locking the gates” could have been spent adding audio levels, reducing shutter effects, or enabling a record time greater than 12 minutes! As a law abiding purchaser of their hardware I am really offended. I am offended that they went on the attack instead of graciously acknowledging that their cameras are the focus of some innovative creative people. I am also saddened because I can not think of a way that it is good for the company, or the consumer, or the industry. This seems like equal parts greed and ignorance.

If you understand why they do this, I would love to hear it. If not, then I’m sure canon would love to hear it.

Public Relations Department
Corporate Communications Division
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042

Weird banding on Canon 7d explained!

The other night I was out filming traffic. I ended up getting a really weird camera artifact. It looks like a dark bar that rolls through the shot from bottom to top. At first it made me freak out a bit, thinking that the camera was somehow broken. I eventually figured out that it is the result of A) a flickering light source and B) the right (wrong) shutter speed. I think the streetlights were tungsten bulbs, but they may have been HID bulbs. Whatever they were they definitely had a flicker to them.

I read somewhere that ideally you should shoot a shutter speed that is double the frame rate. This gives you a 180 degree shutter and it should look very similar to film. The way that I made these bars appear was by changing the shutter speed away from 1/125 when I was shooting 720p60. I have ideas as to why this creates the banding, but they are all theories. If you have any more insight pleas tell me in the comments!
Moral of the story: keep the shutter speed at twice the frames per second. Change the aperture, or buy a faster lens!

good gear to go with your shiny new canon 7d

I can only hope that there will be a lot of other happy people unwrapping new cameras this christmas. I bought my 7d about a month ago, and the best/worst thing is that now I realize buying it is just the beginning. I want to buy sooo much gear to use with it, and it is tough to find well recommended, modestly priced gear. Here is the short list of what I have or want to buy, to wet your creative whistle.

bogen tripod with fluid head.
If you buy nothing else on this list, get a tripod and a fluid head. The 5d/7d do not have ANY image stabilization capabilities, so if you plan on using any lens longer than a 50 you will need to use a tripod. The fluid head is also critical because many other types of heads are built for still photos. They are easily adjustable, but not in smooth movements. A fluid head is designed for video, and is the only real way to get a smooth pan.

Hit the MORE for more!
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Slow motion from the 7d. 720p60 to 24p How-to

There were a few different stages of excitement that I went through after getting my Canon 7d. First I played around with all of my manual nikon lenses (using an adapter of course). Next I marveled at the settings and the live view feature. Finally I decided I wanted to go out and shoot some slow motion video. This is fairly easy to do seeing as the camera shoots both 720p and ntsc at 60 frames a second. The software side of slowing things down required some thinking, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

Here is what I (and the wisdom of the internet) have come up with.

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Canon 7d test video

canon 7d test shoot

here’s a quick video I put together with my new dslr: the Canon 7d. I’ll run down my gear and workflow in a lil bit, but for now, here’s the vid.
Canon 7d test / Coffee facts

15 great gifts for photography geeks.

not my camera, not my picture. but it is nice, isn't it?

I have really had a lot of fun shooting pictures of things and learning about photography in the last few years. One thing I love about digital photography is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to take a lot of pictures. I have had an absolute blast playing around making pinhole lenses, taking infra red pictures, and playing around with garage sale flashes.

Here are a lot of ideas (and links!) for gifts for the photographer in your life, arranged by price from low to high. Most of these links are nikon-specific, but if you like the idea, there is definitely a canon version to be found out there! Side note: if you don’t want to read my interpretation, then you can just click here and find the list at amazon.

nikonRemote ML-3
ir remote – You can control your camera with a remote! These little guys are good for group photos, stop motion work, and for the times your camera is way out of reach. They’re cheap too!

$16 for the nikon version
and $7 for the knockoff

flash Slave
flash slave – This is a neat tiny little bit of electronics that you pop onto the bottom of a flash and it will fire whenever it sees another flash fire. These aren’t as good as the high tech versions out there, but they still do the trick a lot of the time. These can be found for $8

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Christmas Gifts for Geeks (pt 3) MAKE magazine



There really are few magazines that I eagerly look forward to. There are even fewer that I can’t hold back from reading in the bookstore BEFORE my subscription arrives (I just can’t hold back!) MAKE is chock full of cool projects, ideas, and people. They have detailed build plans for some of their projects, and they are always a source of inspiration. To give a gift subscription click here of just go to There seem to be a few different deals out there. Sometimes you can get a makers notebook for free, and sometimes you can get an extra issue. You get to pick your deal.

It should also be noted that their blog is one of my main interests on the internet. You can find it at and it is almost like a new issue that arrives every time you hit the refresh button!

Make seems to be about celebrating the unabashed love of technology, and I unabashedly love that. If you know of someone who might like it – get it for them. If you already get it – loan out a few copies to your friends. This magazine deserves some more evangelism!

Cheapest follow focus ever for canon 7d / 5d mark II


Ever since I have fallen in love with the Canon 7d dslr, I have been fantasizing about making a legit follow focus for a dslr. It allows you to have more control over the focusing, and a smoother camera because your rotation is in a different axis as the lens. (You may hear more of my traditional FF plans in a few) In the meantime I saw a vimeo clip that had this little gem of an idea in it. For quick focus pulls a lever like this can’t be beat, and it’s dirt cheap as well!
rack focus for canon dslr

Here are all of the parts from the old home depot. Simple stuff. It totaled around $6, and it’s enough to make 2 and have parts left over.

worm screw

The first step is to cut out a few teeth in order to make room for the bolt.

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star trail stacking in photoshop


I have always wanted to do this kind of photography, but with most digital cameras there is simply no way you can leave the shutter open and the sensor on for a few hours. My D40 starts to get some serious noise after a few minutes, and there clearly must be an upper limit due to the sensor overheating. Luckily for me there is a relatively simple way to compose LOTS of shots into one image and achieve the same effect.
For those who only want to mile high review of it, here it is. Take a ton of pictures with a long-ish shutter speed. (for this one I used 10 seconds) and then layer them all in photoshop on top of each other and use the
“screen” blending mode to get them all visible.
The actual application of this can be difficult, because it is either REALLY time consuming, or it requires some thought and scripting. I decided to go for the latter and use my noggin a bit.

Scripting a photoshop action.
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