Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves

Mark another bucket list item off, as I was fortunate to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves a couple of weeks back.  It was a long round trip journey just to ensure that I was able to see them, as the ice caves were only open for a few weeks this year.  After walking out on the ice after getting to the parking lot a 6:45am, I was able to get some decent shots of the caves.  The total number of people at the caves that day was about 15,000.  Highly recommended if you ever get the chance to make it up north in Wisconsin.

Photo Booth Update

A few years back, I build a Photo Booth for a friends wedding.  The build journal can be found here.  Since then, I've used it a number of times for different events, but haven't really put any effort into marketing the solution.  It's actually a ton of work to get everything set up, but each time I manage to use it, it's a blast.  I've already done 3 events this year, with 2 of them being at my normal job at corporate events.  I thought I'd post here to give an update that that Photo Booth is alive and well, and still delivers fun and excitement to any event!

YMCA Camp Jorn Pancake Breakfast

Educators Credit Union Welcome to the Home Office

Educators Credit Union Tech IT Up A Notch!

For more information on the m2 Photo booth, visit

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DIY eMotimo Turntable

eMotimo sells an accessory for the TB3 called the Turntable for use with product photography, stop motion, or video.  Using parts from servocity, I was able to make my own DIY version of the turntable.  I purchased the stepper motor from stepperonline, and the 8mm to 6.35mm coupler off ebay.  Otherwise the rest of the parts are Actobotics parts from Servocity.

To have the ability to mount this to any tripod, I used a combination NEMA 17 mount and 1/4" threaded screw plate attached directly to the base of the 51:1 geared stepper motor.

Here you see the complete turntable rig attached to a Mefoto Day trip tripod.  I used a piece of wood that I had CNC'd for this project as the table, and attach some non-stick shelf lining using spray adhesive.

The wood "table" was attached to the bottom using wood screws and an Actobotics flat bracket D.  Using a hub mount, flanged ball bearings, 1/4" d-shaft, a set screw hub, and a 1.5" aluminum channel, I was able to mount the top part of the rig to the planetary stepper motor using a planetary mount.  Please be advised that the Actobotics planetary gearmotot mount B does not fit any of the stepper motors that I've purchased from eMotimo or stepperonline.  I'm not sure if there metric version of the planetary mount, but the one I had looked like it was made for a specific motor sold by servocity.  I was able to drill deeper into the aluminum to make it work, but had to make modifications to the part.  Using a NEMA 17 mount would probably be a better option without having to do any drilling.  Servocity also does not sell a 6.35mm (1/4") to 8mm coupler, so I bought mine form ebay.  I like this version, as it has set screws on both sides of the coupler for a tighter grip on the d-shaft.  

The entire rig including postage cost less than $100, and postage for all the parts was almost $30.  

Here is a test time lapse using the DIY turntable.  I had the camera on automatic white balance, so there is some flickr in the shots.  I just wanted to see how it worked.  Another great DIY accessory for the eMotimo TB3 and my photography toolbox.   Drink Wisconsinbly!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

DIY Slow motion zoom/follow focus - Servocity / eMotimo TB3

Part I:  The Build

Although I've had this idea for a long time, I never could figure out ho to accomplish it. Recently, I saw a video post from photographer Mike Ver Sprill, (@MikeVerSprill) on his DIY slow motion zoom rig using servocity actobotic parts.  His build was the inspiration behind mine, and I hope that it works as well as the one that he created.  The main difference between my build is using stepper motor versus a gear motor.  I actually have the same motor controller that he used, but is currently being used on my servocity cable cam rig, but I'm not sure if that would work with the eMotimo TB3 as the controller.  Since I already had the TB3, the simplest method was to purchase a geared stepper motor to use on this rig. Since the zoom, doesn't have more than a couple inches of travel, I needed a motor that would turn very slowly.  I chose the 51:1 Planetary gearbox NEMA 17 stepper motor.  I already have a 27:1 that I use on a 6 foot rail, and didn't think that was slow enough.  I probably could have gotten away with the 71:1 or 100:1 to really slow it down.

To wire the motor to work with the eMotimo TB3, you need a Molex Jumper 4 Wire Assembly that is available from

The remainder of the parts, except for the 1/4" bolt to attach the camera to the rig, the lens gear, and the shaft coupler came from The follow focus microLensGear was from RedRock, and used a 32P Pitch, which aligns with the Actobotics gears perfectly.

FYI:  The Actobotics planetary gear mount does not align with the screw holes.  I'm not sure if all of the motors that I have are metric and the servocity mounts are imperial, but I needed to drill some additional space to get it to work.  There is always the NEMA 17 mount that I used on my rover build, but this way is much more seamless, and gives you additional shaft length to clamp onto.

Here is a quick demonstration showing the rig moving and zooming.  In a real world example, the rig will zoom over a long period of time, probably hours.

I will use this rig mostly for star trail photography, and adding the motorized zoom will give my pictures a vortex effect.  I'll post images as soon as it's warm enough to go out the test the new rig!  Thanks again to Mike Ver Sprill for the inspiration.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pelican Goodness

Amazon recently had a Gold deal of the day on Pelican cases, and I ordered a Pelican 1560 hard case for my DIY time lapse rover.

Using the pick and pluck foam, it provides a snug fit for the Actobotics rover, the eMotimo TB3, and batteries.  The case is deep enough to stash any cables underneath the main level of foam.  I didn't have a secure and safe way to transport the rover, and it always ended up sitting on top of a pile of stuff in the car.  Now I'll know that it's ready to go and won't get damaged during transport.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DIY Time Lapse Rover 1.5 Update

One of the tweaks that I needed to do to get the time lapse rover working was come up with a coupler that went from 8mm to 1/4" so that the stepper motor shaft would connect to the 1/4" D-Shaft.  I originally could only find ones that didn't have a set screw, and the shaft would slip under any torque from the motor.

I settled on buying a coupler from ServoCity, and then drilling out the side so that it would fit the 8mm shart, since they didn't sell one that fit onto a stepper motor.  There was still a bit of play in the shaft under pressure, and I found myself constantly tightening the set screw.  

I finally came across what I was looking for, and ordered an 8mm to 1/4" aluminum coupler from ebay.

Unfortunately, the new coupler had too big of diameter, and I couldn't mount it like I did previously and just replace the old coupler.  I made the decision to make some design changes, and mount the stepper motor  in reverse, and use the NEMA mount from servocity on the back, versus on the shaft side like I did originally.  Luckily, the D-shaft that I used initially was still the right size and everything is mounted more securely and firm.  

The emotimo TB3 time lapse rover is now back in action and ready for testing once again.

If you haven't seen what the rover can do, here is some recent footage from Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Badger Gameday Timelapse with Jump Around

It's not often you get a chance to watch the University of Wisconsin Badgers from the suite level. I brought a GoPro HD Hero 3 with me thinking that I may be able to get some time lapse footage of the game. It's still a fun little camera, as they don't let you into the stadium with professional level photography gear, and it's not worth the hassle of walking back to the car if you get turned away. The GoPro gives a really wide angle of the stadium and crowd, but can't zoom in on the action. Perfect for some time lapse.