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.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

DIY Time Lapse Rover Version 1.5

When I originally built the time lapse rover to work with the eMotimo TB3, the only option that I could figure out was to have the gears outside the frame, and have the stepper motor mounted parallel to the back axle. This wasn't pretty and based upon that original design, the rover was only 1-wheel drive.

The motor and gears hung off the back on one side of the rover.  Not ideal, but it worked.  

Recently, ServoCity released a new bevel gears that would allow me to create a much simpler drive mechanism and keep everything tucked within the frame.  I also made the change to a longer d-Shaft that now makes the rover 2-wheel drive.  The Stepper motor is mounted underneath the main support beam perpendicular to the back axle.  I also changed the way that I mounted the wheels, and brought them closer to the frame, as I figured there was no reason to extend them out the way they were previously.

I'm also using the new stepper motor mount.  Having a motor that has a gear reduction box made it tricky, and I suppose that I could have reversed the shaft to come out the bottom to make it easier.  It's a solid mount to the back axle with a small channel spacer to provide room for the 3/8" to 1/4" coupler.  The back axle is fixed now, and only the front axle can rotate.

The 3/8" threaded mount was rotated so that the TB3 always sits on the rover with the input ports positioned to the back.  This creates a cleaner path for the cables, and always bothered me a bit to have it mounted on a diagonal.  The GoPro mount is still on the front, and the 3/8" screw is ready on the back in case I want to do a scorpion mount for the flexible GoPro mount.

The bevel gears are smooth the rover feels more solid now.  With the wheels moved in, and the motor tucked underneath, the rover is a svelte machine.  Hope to get out and play with it more soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

DIY Floating Wall Mounting Blocks

Save money by making your own floating wall mounting blocks for aluminum metal prints

The 2014 Art Fair season is almost here, and I'm making last minute preparations.  I ordered a number of aluminum metal prints to add to my collection, but didn't order them with mounting blocks.  It adds an additional ~$8.50 per metal print depending on vendor, so I decided to try and save some money by making my own floating wall mounting blocks.  I already have a plunge router, so all I really needed was the router bit, template, and template guide.
I had a 8' x 3" poplar board, and used the Rockler picture hanging keyhole template to create the floating wall blocks.

You'll also need a 5/8" router template guide for the template to work.

A plunge router works best if you have the router plunge depth set properly before your first cut.

I cut about 16 larger size blocks, and a few smaller ones.  I cleaned up the edges with some sandpaper, and they were ready to mount.

Using the double-sided tape, I stuck the new blocks to the back of each metal print.  

In the long run, this method will save me a ton of money.  For this batch, each block cost less than $1.50 each.  I made a few extra blocks for future metal print purchases.

2014 Art Fair Schedule

m2 Photography will be participating in a number of summer art festivals.  I will keep this page updated if I am accepted to any more.  I hope to see you at one of these events!

Monument Square Art Festival - Racine, Wisconsin

Saturday, May 31st - Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Art Fair OFF the Square - Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday, July 12th - Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Uptown Art Fair - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Friday, August 1st -  Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Art in the Park - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Saturday, August 9th - Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cloud Gate Time Lapse

I took a day trip to Chicago yesterday to play with my DIY time lapse rover, and captured one of the most iconic Chicago landmarks; Cloud Gate.  I believe that most in Chicago refer to this as "The Bean" and is heavily traveled by tourists.  Great place to test the longevity of the rover, and capture a ton of movement due the high volume of foot traffic in the park.  The cool thing about the bean is that it's basically on giant mirror, so in essence, this is my and the rovers first time lapse "selfie."

Unfortunately, I had to stand guard over the rover as it made its way around the bean, as I didn't want anyone tripping over it.  Therefore, I'm in the reflection of the bean too.  It wasn't a great day for clouds in Chicago, but there was some whispy clouds that showed up better in the reflection.  The eMotimo TB3 drove the rover hundreds of feet in 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I captured an image once every 10 seconds on 3 different cameras.  The 2 GoPros were there to document the journey, and my Canon 5D Mark III was pointed at the bean.  I had about 15 people come up and ask me what I was doing, and some aspiring photographers interested in the rig.  The problem with the rover is the time for set up, as I have to drive the entire distance that the rover is going to take, and it wasn't designed to go very fast.  So for this sequence, it probably took almost 20 minutes to set up.

I'd like to come back someday to drive under the bean, but most likely I'd have to do that at night.  I also think doing some light painting in the park at night while the rover went around the bean would be cool. Definitely a fun toy, but it take some patience to get the sequence set up and completed.  I definitely think that I can find other fun locations like this, and test the limits of the eMotimo robot to see how far of a time lapse I can do.  Who knows, maybe this set the record for farthest distance for an eMotimo time lapse sequence.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Building an Actobotics Kite Aerial Photography Suspension Rig

The Kite Aerial Photography community is one of those groups where the members are sort of eclectic, and get tons of enjoyment from capturing unique aerial imagery by hanging a camera from a kite.  Anyone who has tried KAP gets not only the satisfaction of flying kites, but the reward of seeing a bird's eye view in the images.  I was hooked from the first session, and have been flying cameras on a string ever since. You've decided that you want to be part of "that" group, and want more information on ways to get started.  As a KAP nerd, I think I speak for the entire group by saying, "Welcome!"

People have been using Kites to capture aerial photography for over a hundred years.  George R. Lawrence made a name for himself using a series of kites to lift a 50 pound camera in 1906 to document post-earth quake San Francisco.  Most modern day kite photographers use a suspension rig which was designed by Pierre Picavet way back in 1912. What has changed is the quality of the cameras, the design of the rigs, and even instant gratification in seeing the images through wireless networks.  I will focus on the actual rig that holds the camera in this thread, and show how you can create your own.  

I'd also like to suggest that you check out the Kite Aerial Photography forum.  There are hundreds of photographers that discuss everything KAP, and should be your primary resource when you start your journey towards kite photography.  Before you even think about launching a KAP rig, please keep in mind that hanging a camera from a kite string can be dangerous.  If the kite fails or the camera falls from the rig, you could potentially cause serious damage to your camera, and injury or death to anything underneath.  I would recommend that you never fly your rig over the top of people, and ensure that there is a safe zone in case of failure.  

What sort of Kite do I need?

I have 4 kites that I use in my KAP quiver.  3 of them are soft kites called FlowForms that do not have any struts or a rigid frame.  Unfortunately, they do not make the original Flowforms anymore, but there are similar alternatives.  The nice thing about these kites is that they are very stable in the sky, which is critical for capturing great imagery.  The less the kite moves around, the less the camera will move around as well. Many fly a Delta kite, which comes in many sizes.  Hopefully it's obvious, the more wind the smaller the kite you need and vice versa.  

What kind of camera do I need?

I once told a worrisome friend of mine when he watched me hang a camera over the water from a kite, "There is always risk in being awesome."  Just understand that with the risk of launching a camera hundreds of feet in the air, there is a chance that you may lose or break it.  So, don't send your shiny new dSLR camera up when you don't know what you're doing.   There are plenty of low cost solutions that will get you amazing results while you learn the ropes.  That being said, you need a camera that has the capability to take pictures automatically.  This is called an intervelometer.  Some cameras have it built in, some use external triggers, and some can be hacked with custom firmware to accomplish this.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on what camera to use.  For this thread, I'm using a GoPro HD Hero 3, which has a built in intervelometer.  It's light, wide angle, and easy to use.  My first camera used in KAP back in 2009 was a Canon SD900 running the CHDK hack.  Since then, I have used 7 different cameras.  There are many options.

Do I need to build my own suspension rig?

Not really.   You can buy Kite Aerial Photography rigs that are ready to go.  I suggest browsing the options at  I think that one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby is building your own rig. I've created many different rigs from static to full remote control.  At this point, I fly 95% of the time with an Auto-KAP rig.  It's simple, and I still get the shots I'm looking for.  Auto-KAP basically takes and rotates the camera while it's in the air.  You can also add tilt to the mix.  Since Kite Aerial Photography is many times a solo activity, I find that Auto-KAP is the simplest way to get the most out of your session.

For this article, I've built a panning rig using Actobotics parts from  I've used a channel mount servo gearbox and hub gear reduction to slow down the rotation, so that the camera has time to take pictures for a number of seconds before rotating to the next stop.   I've also added the AuRiCo, Automatic Rig Controller, which operates the continuous rotation panning servo.  I've set it up to rotate a small amount, and then wait a few seconds before moving again. This really works great on a rig that has Pan and Tilt.  

The picavet suspension, which helps keep the camera level to the horizon, uses aluminum beams with eye hooks on the end.  Normally, I use PeKaBe ball-bearing blocks, which are smaller precision pulleys that really give the smoothest possible picavet.  However, in order to keep the cost of the rig down, eye hooks work just fine.  

Here is the rig without the aluminum beams, and a compact picavet package from

With the rig ready, now you're set to go and fly your kite.  The camera suspension rig is not attached directly to the kite.  It's attached to the kite line about 100 feet below the kite itself.  This helps with stability.  The Actobotics rig above rotates 360 once every 8 minutes or so.

Unlike Ellen's selfie, this one isn't going to set any Twitter record.  However, one of the outcomes of using auto-KAP is the aerial self portrait.  The Actobotics rig worked well, and I was able to keep the kite aloft for about 45 minutes.  

The result is an aerial view of my current home town, Paddock Lake, Wisconsin.  My house is even in the shot as an added bonus.  No leaves on the trees yet, as spring finally arrived a few weeks ago.  

The internet has a wealth of information on Kite Aerial Photography, so do your research before making any design decisions.  I find it very enjoyable to build your own rig and play with different configurations.  Having a simple, auto-rotating platform for your camera will make Kite Aerial Photography easier and more enjoyable.  Fly safe!