Category Archives: Photography

Cameras, lenses, strobes, f-stops and more

How To Disassemble the new Nikon D7000 DSLR

Nikon’s new D7000 is an awesome camera full of great technology. But what’s on the inside? The Thai site takes it upon themselves to pull the case apart piece by piece to show the innards for us to all enjoy.

One thing that stands out to me in the video is that electric screwdriver for those tiny precise screws – I’ve gotta get one of those.

(found this video on btw. Great site!)

My Halloween Pizza Bash Video

Halloween is a big deal on my street. This year I invited a few friends and neighbors over to pass out candy while I made pizzas. It was a blast. Many, many thanks to PizzaHacker for creating the PizzaForge oven and for working with me to build a prototype of a one-piece unit. Anyone that follows him and has experienced the pizza his creation produces knows that he’s designed something truly awesome.

Also, thanks to Chris McMains for delivering a fresh batch of starter to use for the dough. I used the Varasanos recipe (with a pinch of dry yeast) and everyone, including myself, was raving about the flavor.

Here are the technical details on the video:
Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8
Tripod: Manfrotto
Image capturing software: Sortofbild
Runtime: 4 hours 15 minutes (stopped when the battery died)
Assembled with Quicktime Pro, edited on iMovie
Color correction in Photoshop (removed some of the overpowering orange coloring and lightened shadows)
Music: “Ghosts N’ Stuff” (Hard Intro Remix) by Deadmau5

This might be the best thing I’ve ever made. It also might be the weirdest thing I’ve made. Watch in HD on Youtube.

Only got one photo of a pizza cooked that night, but it was a good one. Everything was really clicking.

Improve Your Photography with a DIY LED Ring Light

Ring light: a source of light for photography that encircles the camera lens completely. It creates a shadow-softening effect on the object or person being photographed, a warm and natural alternative to the stark standard camera-mounted single flash look. Normally the tool of professional photographers, ring lights are becoming more accessible to hobbyists, with models ranging from around $40 to well into the hundreds of dollars.

But for those of you who are taking macro or close-up photos, why not build your own? The cost of a DIY unit runs just over $25, and will take less than an hour to assemble. And the satisfaction of building the project on your own is impossible to match.

Jani ‘Japala’ Pönkkö of pieced together a fantastic set of instructions using 12volt LED “eye” lights seen on current BMWs. By coupling a few together and mounting them into the lid of a CD spindle (like when you buy a 10 pack of blank CDs at Office Depot), you have a lighting system that can be mounted to a threaded adapter and screwed onto your favorite camera lens. Check his plans here.

Instructables user nygma2004 took the project one step further and wrote up plans for a 9v battery pack, conveniently tucked into a standard Altoids container. He’s using this as a way to get shots of his model railroad cars and locomotives – something I can identify with well. Read his how-to here.

Convenient, cheap lighting that gets great results. I love it.

You need the following:
– T10 21-LED White Light Car Angle Eye (70mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
– T10 24-LED White Light Car Angel Eye (90mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
– T10 39-LED White Light Car Angel Eye (120mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
– Big Altoids peppermints box from local supermarket
– Old laptop power supply “borrowed” from work
– 3.5 mm stereo plugs and socket, 3 each. I used a socket which has screw mount, so it is easy to fit into the box.
– 2.5 mm DC socket that fits your power supply plug
– TS7812 1A 12V fixed voltage regulator
– 9V battery clips
– Adapter ring, my Canon ESO 300D has 58mm ring (easily found for Nikon, Pentax and all the other DSLR makes)
– Some cable

High Speed Photography Using Laser Triggers

High speed crack

One of the fun capabilities that the CHDK hack for Canon point and shoot cameras enables is super fast shutter photography. By snapping the shutter at 1/10,000th of a second (or faster), you can freeze moments that are imperceptible to the human eye. Speeding bullets, balloons popping, or one of the more common shots, splashing water.

Once you have a camera that can stop time, you need a way to tell it exactly when you want to do so. Instructables users SaskView has created an awesome solution to that problem by building a laser trigger that causes the shutter to actuate when the beam of light is broken. What’s more impressive is that he’s sourced most of his parts from a 99 cent store – this is truly a lost cost/high return project.

Laser Triggered High-Speed PhotographyMore DIY How To Projects

I got the following at my local Dollar store (each item was actually $1.25: talk about misleading advertising!) Laser pointer Door chime USB Cable Magnets Clamp Shelf brackets Mini-tripod Self-Adhesive backed Velcro Small picture frame (for the plate glass insert) Eye drops (for the dropper bottle. I poured out the contents as I believe anything purchased at a dollar s…

The Camera
You’ll need a Canon camera because we’re going to temporarily modify its firmware using the Canon Hacking Development Kit. CHDK is loaded onto the memory card inside the camera, allowing us to override most of the camera’s functions, turning a cheap point and shoot into a highly adjustable way-cool time freezer.Currently there are 47 Canon cameras that CHDK will work wi…

The Circuit
At the bottom you’ll see a link to a pdf containing the schematic. To trigger your CHDK enabled camera we’ll be using the USB remote function. In this case we have to use it via the ‘syncable’ method, which is lightning fast compared to the normal USB remote. The syncable remote also operates differently. It triggers the camera on the falling edge instead of the risin…

The Laser
The laser pointer has a momentary switch but I wanted a slide switch that would allow the laser to remain on without me holding the button. The Dollar store magnetic door chime not only had the slide switch that I wanted, but also it used the same kind and number of batteries that the laser does. This was cheaper than buying just a switch from an electronics supplier. …

The Drop Rig
Below is a photo of my setup. Some pieces of wood and some steel shelf brackets clamped to a TV tray. The laser is mounted with the magnets on one of the brackets, and the photodiode on the other. In between and slightly above I’ve velcro’d the eye dropper bottle filled with milk.

CHDK Settings: Enabling Synchable Remote
In order for the USB cable remote to work, you have to enable it. With CHDK installed on your camera go into the Main Menu and at the very bottom you’ll see Miscellaneous stuff. Enter that menu and at the very bottom of it you’ll find the Remote parameters menu. In that menu set Enable Remote [.] Make sure there is a dot inside the square brackets, meaning it’s enable…

CHDK Settings: Extra Photo Operations
Now go into the Extra Photo Operations menu at the top of the main menu and set: Disable Overrides [disable] Include AutoIso & Bracketi [.] Override shutter speed [1/10000] Value factor [1] Shutterspeed emun type [Ev Step] Override aperture [5.03] Override Subj. Dist. V [350] Value factor [1] Override ISO value [80] Value factor [1] Force manual flash [.] Power of flas…

Adjusting the Camera Settings
Normally you would be triggering an external flash, while the shutter is open using a cable release with the camera in ‘bulb’ mode. Once the flash goes off, you let the shutter close. This requires the room to be darken because the shutter will be open for many seconds. In this setup you can have the room lights on because the flash and shutter are triggered at the sam…

Adjusting the circuit
With your drop rig in place mount the photoresistor to one of the steel brackets and the laser on the other one. Adjust the position of the laser so that the droplets fall through the beam. Adjust the position of the photoresistor so that it’s illuminated with the laser. Power up the circuit. LED1 will light up, indicating power. Before we begin using the eye-dropper,…

Disassemble Your Lumix Digital Camera To Clean Dust Off the Sensor

(Comments posted on the video page indicate that this procedure works for many of the Panasonic digital cameras–happy cleaning!)

My Panasonic FX37 is a great camera. Fast, wide-angle lens, (f/2.8, 25mm equivalent) in a compact package with all the modern features (image stabilization, HD video, facial recognition, etc). And it takes really nice photos. However there is one downside: its sensor seems to attract dust, which is especially noticeable when zooming in on a bright object (such as the sky).

I’m not sure if this is a matter of the case being poorly sealed compared to other pocket cameras, but it is frustrating. Thankfully, the remedy is fast and simple: by removing a few small screws, you are able to access the sensor inside the camera. A few bursts of air and a quick reassembly is all it takes to be snapping photos like the camera is brand new.

I made a quick video tutorial of how to access and clean the sensor– the entire process takes less than 10 minutes. Make things smoother on yourself by getting the tools together before starting the process. You don’t want to leave the case open any longer than necessary.

Here’s what you’ll need: Mini screwdriversBlower or compressed air •Lint-free cloth • Receptacles for screws and parts • Clean workspace.

Be careful disassembling your camera. This will almost surely void your warranty (a warranty that probably can be used to have the company clean the sensor for you), so be certain that you are willing to risk breaking your camera forever. I take no responsibility for any damage incurred following these instructions. Now, go clean that sensor!

Why You Shouldn’t Use Your iPhone for RC Airplane Aerial Video

Combining RC aircraft and video cameras is as instinctual as putting berries on your cereal. And as manufacturers come out with higher quality lenses and sensors, while shrinking camera size and weight, some pretty impressive (and expensive) rigs have been assembled to capture aerial footage.

However the iPhone does not seem like a good fit for a project like this. Light: yes. Fragile: very. Important to your daily life: completely. Watch as this unlucky (or perhaps, very lucky) fellow flies his iPhone-equipped airplane into a light post. Hilarity!

When I tried to shoot some nice aerial video from my iPhone equipped rc-plane I accidently crashed into a lamppost.
My aeroplane was totally smashed but my iPhone fortunately survived and captured everything on video!

I’m flying over Löberöd in south of Sweden.

Of course, done right the footage from RC aircraft can be downright cinematographic.

This video, while not aerial, shows the workings of a pretty badass flying rig equipped with a Canon G10, and shot on one of my favorite DSLRs for video, the Canon 7D (although I’m starting to like the T2i a lot – the price and quality is undeniable).

Print and Fold Functional Paper Pinhole Camera

I’m a fan of projects that you can do at your work desk – print on the office printer, cut out with scissors and an exacto, and glue/tape together. The Dirkon paper pinhole camera might be the pinnacle of this type of project. This thing is cool – it’s a fully functional pinhole camera that looks like a papercraft SLR. It uses standard 35mm film, and actually advances the film. It has a makeshift “shutter release.” Maybe best of all, it looks super cool – the assembled version is a great decoration for your camera shelf or desktop. It’s been around for a while; I put one together a few years back myself.

The original instructions are in Czech, but have been translated with assembly tips. There are a couple sections that leave some questions, but use some intuition and it all comes together.

If you plan to use this for photography, you’ll need to use cardstock when printing it out – double-check that it doesn’t let light through (if so, line the inside to eliminate all light). Otherwise, standard xerox paper will be just fine.

Here’s the main page with writeup, notes and tips: Dirkon Pinhole Camera

This is the PDF to print out.

And while at it, check out the Rubikon 2, another print-and-fold camera that is an evolution of the Dirkon.

The site also has some great information about determining exposure time for pinhole cameras.

Finally, get inspired by checking out Flickr pics of other Dirkons and the photos they create.

PDF of the Dirkon

Easy DIY Photography Studio Lighting Projects

The folks at have a good post with seven easy DIY projects that will help beef up your photo studio. Beauty dish, dual speedlight mount, ring flash, softbox, snoot, suction cup mounts (very clever), and a PVC light stand. All of them are useful tools.

I like the beauty dish project as an easy, cheap way to get that softbox look. These things can range in price from the $50 range to a well over $200. The version described here will cost next to nothing, especially if you source the supplies at the local thrift store.  Here’s a good example of what a beauty dish does for lighting:

(no, that’s not me – it’s just an example I found online)

The $14 DIY Steadicam Built from Everyday Items

Steadycam test 2 – before and after from Nathan Carrick on Vimeo.

Shaky footage can be one of the biggest killers when shooting video. As cameras get smaller, and zoom ability gets more powerful, the effect of shake is multiplied greatly. This can still be fine for everyday, “snapshot” use – but to capture footage for any semi-serious use, you need to brace your camera against the jitters.

A way to retain mobility while combating shake is to move the center of gravity of the camera to a point that is not in line with the lens. This is the basic idea behind the steadicam, a mounting rig that is used by many professional camera operators. Typically, a counterweight is affixed to the camera at a certain distance via a mounting bracket. The length of the bracket and the heft of the counterweight are set for the specific style of shooting that you want to do. The displaced center of gravity helps nullify the small jitters from shaking the lens, and the added mass of the setup also helps keep the motion more fluid and less herky-jerky.

Normally, you’ll see high-end steadicams that have a nearly frictionless joint (gimbal) that allows the camera to remain steady as the rig twists, turns, and tilts. But satisfying results can be had with a simple unit that uses just the counterweight alone.

Johnny Chung Lee has a start-to-finish writeup on his site on how to build a $14 steadycam with everyday items. The gist: two short lengths of steel pipe are combined in a sideways T, one side for a handle, the vertical piece to hold the camera at top and the counterweight below. A small weight is affixed on the bottom, the camera is connected to the top with a modified endcap that has a mounting bolt in it, and voila: DIY steadicam.

DOIT reader Nathan Carrick sent me some photos and videos of his assembly of this project, and a before/after video of the results (the inspiration for this post). I’m impressed – you can see how this improves the quality and creates a smoother looking result.

Nathan's PVC endcap for the DIY Steadycam. The 1/4" mounting bolt on top is the standard size all cameras use.

A Rundown of The Top DO IT Posts For Your Weekend DIY Inspiration

Jump into your weekend with some DIY projects. Here are a few of my favorite ones that I’ve posted here. Remember to take pics and send them to me too.

How to Build a Temporary Wood-fired Brick Pizza Oven with Cheap, Easy to Find Materials
(and Make Your Own Wooden Pizza Peel (Paddle))

Near-Space DIY Aerial Photography for $150

How to Make A Digital Pinhole Camera – Fast, Cheap and Easy

Arduino RC Controlled Lawnmower Project

Build a Six-Wheel-Drive ATV for Go Anywhere Fun

Build Your Own Camera Gyro-Stabilizer With a Spare Hard Drive

DIY Electronic Drum Pads for Less Than $30

Bike Repairs Made Easy With the DIY Bike Repair Stand
Then Tune Up Your Bike: Adjusting the Derailleurs