Saturday, November 12, 2016

DJI Mavic First Impressions

I had a chance to play with the DJI Mavic today on 2 occasions and not only test our the DJI Go, but also the Litchi app.  It was a little colder in Wisconsin today, but a very nice and sunny fall day.  The wind in the first session was about 15 mph, but the Mavic performed great.  I finished the day by doing a sunset session to try and test the waypoints and pano features in the Litchi app.  

Basically, my experience with drone were from the MultiWiiCopter that I built a few years ago.  With that drone, I had to concentrate on flying it and could never take my eyes off of it.  With the DJI Mavic, it flies itself.  Add litchi to the Mix, and everything can be planned out ahead of time.  No flying skill at all is necessary, and I was able to concentrate on what I wanted to capture from a photo and video stand point.  Where I need to spend some time now that I'm comfortable letting the Mavic fly itself is the photo settings.  Everything I did today was just set to Auto, as I wanted to ensure that I could safely move the drone around and land it safely.  I really enjoyed the sessions I've had this week, and think that the Mavic will allow me to get back into aerial photography, and start to dabble in aerial video.  More to come!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

DJI Mavic Test Flight & Images

The Mavic is my first drone from DJI. I built a Y6 Multiwiicopter a few years ago that takes much more skill to fly than the Mavic. I am pleasantly surprised at how stable this drone is, as I will primarily use my DJI Mavic for aerial photography. I've had the drone for a couple of days, and went home on lunch today to get some test shots. The drone is very stable, and pretty much flies itself. Here are a couple of shots from the quick session.

Looking down at my house, you can see my shadow on the back patio.

My other goal was to do a panoramic to see how well the image merge together.  The shot above has 32 portrait images that we're combined with Autopano Giga.  I think that I'm going to have a ton of time with the DJI Mavic pro.  Too bad that I missed the fall colors and it's dark at like 4:30 now.  I'm planning on going out this weekend and spending a lot of time flying and shooting.  :)

DJI Mavic Pro Custom Pelican Case

Just like every other photographer who pre-ordered the DJI Mavic, I too had to wait while DJI got their act together, but it showed up earlier this week.  I've flown every day, and hope to have some sample shots up soon.  I went with the Fly More package, which came with a camera bag.  However, I plan on traveling with the Mavic, and with everything else in my car, including dogs, I didn't think that the satchel they provided offered enough protection for my new toy.  I went with a Pelican 1400 case and ordered the Kaizen foam to customize the inside.  I don't think that the pick and pull foam that comes with the Pelican cases works very well.

As you can see, the Mavic fits comfortably in the foam cutout, along with 2 spare batteries, the controller, the car charger, memory card holder, and battery to USB converter.  I have the multi-battery charger at home, and didn't think that I would need to try and fit that in here too as the batteries should be fully charged when on the go.  The 1400 case will work well when I just need a bit more protection for the Mavic

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Long Term Time Lapse Project

I have an opportunity to capture a construction project over about 8 months.  I have an old Canon G11 camera that I can use to capture the time lapse sequence.  I have created a prototype enclosure that will be securely mounted on a pole at the job site and take pictures every 30 minutes or so.  I also have a couple of options on how to get the camera to trigger, but we'll cover that later.  Here is the initial design.

Basically, I used a step up adapter ring to mount to the front of the case to hold a UV filter and protect the camera and inside of the case.  The camera slides on the internal mount so that the lens extracts flush to the UV filter glass.  There is enough space left in the case to add the power adapter and physical shutter release.  The plan is to physically mount the case to the job site telephone pole using lag bolts.  This will make it semi-permanent, and locks can be added to the box to deter theft.

Parts Used:

1 x Sensei 49mm Lens to 77mm Step Up filter
1 x 77mm Pro Series UV Filter
1 x Andoer Arca Swiss Adapter Plate
1 x Arca Swiss Plate
1 x Actobotics 90 degree Hub Mount Bracket A
1 x Actobotics Large Screw Plate
4 x 6-32 Socket Head Machine Screws
2 x Machine Screws

I already have an AC adapter for the Canon G11, and they are going to install a power outlet onto the pole this case will be mounted to.

SDM, CHDK, Eye-Fi, or Physical remote???

I have to decide how I'll trigger the camera using either SDM/CHDK and a time lapse script, or a physical intervelometer. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Using a custom script with CHDK or SDM will allow me to set the timeing for triggering the shutter to anything I want, and get it to only take pictures during daylight hours.  There are some limitations with CHDK and the size of the Memory cards.  Using this method means that I cannot use the 16GB Eyefi mobi card that I have for wireless access to the pictures.  This means that I will need to remove the memory card from the camera to retrieve the images.

Using a physical shutter release means that I'll have to purchase one off Amazon, and that the images will be taken 24 hours a day.  However, I can then use an EyeFi wireless SD card and be able to get the images off the camera without having to open the box and take the memory card out.  I'm leaning towards this option.

This will be an ongoing blog post as the construction project gets moving forward!

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!