Gear

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9 Bits of Advice for the Casual Adventurer

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http://adventurearchives.blogspot.com/

“What’s in Your Haversack?” from the Adventure Archives Blog.

Over the past year I’ve joined several Facebook groups focusing on local history. I’m most active on the “Abandoned, Old, and Interesting Places in South Carolina” group, but there are similar groups for North Carolina, Georgia, and the south in general. I’ve seen some fantastic photography and learned about some new locations to explore from participation in these groups. However, to be honest, I was starting to suffer from a bit of “decay fatigue.” I was starting to see the same photos of old falling down farm houses and barns over and over, often with no explanation as to their history or significance.

Those minor sins aside, what most of the participants share is a sense of adventure. I decided to put together my own thoughts on advice for casual adventurers. (more…)

The Selfie Stick

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Selfie Stick

Behold, the Selfie Stick!

The very name conjures up the worst in narcissistic tendencies. Selfies are bad enough, but to have gear specific for the purpose is even worse. However, I’m here to defend the Selfie Stick, not as a narcissist’s assistant (I wanted to see how many S’s I could get in this sentence), but as an essential tool in my photo bag. (more…)

A Panoply of Cameras

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Panoply of Cameras

A Panoply of Cameras

Sometime before Christmas I was doing some straightening around the house and I kept stumbling on cameras that were out of place. Some are ones I’m currently using, and some are vintage cameras we keep for nostalgia. I began to wonder exactly how many imaging devices I have in the house. In addition to the obvious cameras, there are webcams, tablets, computers, and just about any phone we’ve purchased in the last decade. That’s a heck of a lot of cameras. I decided to gather as many as I could an create a panoply of cameras for one grand photograph.

This post tells two stories. The first is the story of the an image. The second is an idea for series of future blog posts that the image engendered. (more…)

Fake GoPros – Buyer Beware

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Fake GoPro

Before Christmas I wrote a post with some things to consider if you wanted a GoPro. There are some other options out there. With the success of the GoPro, other companies are putting forth their point of view cameras. And, of course, with the success of GoPro come the imitators. There are lots of fakes and look-alikes on the market. Some of these look good – others, not so much. (more…)

So You’re Considering a GoPro

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GoPro Hero 3 Black

GoPro Hero 3 Black

This morning I got a message from a friend considering a GoPro camera as a Christmas present. Since I’ve gotten that question several times, I decided to put together a blog post with what I’ve been telling folks who might be thinking about getting one, either for themselves or as a present.

I’ll state up front that I love my GoPro, but sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. Even though I (and lots of other people) come up with different ways to use the camera, it’s a niche product, and you have to know its limitations. TL;DR version, I wouldn’t recommend it as your sole camera, but if you’re an active, creative photographer, you’ll find yourself using it in all sorts of ways you never imagined when you first got it. (more…)

Time Lapse with Daffodils

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Depth-o-Fields

Depth-o-Fields

Last weekend I tried setting up a back yard time lapse to see if I could capture the water rising when the beaver rebuilt his dam. Well, the beaver did rebuild, but I wasn’t able to catch the activity. I didn’t even get to catch the water rising. However, I did promise to post the results, and here they are…

As seen in the video, there’s a long stretch of nighttime, and that’s when the water rose. It’s low when the video starts, then when the image comes back in the morning, the water comes back up. Oh well. You can see the neighbor’s huge television from across the lake flickering in the upper left corner in the nighttime shots. (more…)

Backyard Time Lapse Set Up

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2014 Snow-003

Beaverdam in the Snow

We have a very active family of beavers in our back yard. They have managed to dam almost our entire little lake (or the streams that run through what used to be a lake.) While I personally like the beavers, and enjoy seeing the lake much fuller just upstream, their activity is flooding some of my neighbor’s yards. One of my neighbors will occasionally disrupt the dam and let the water flow through. But, the beavers build it right back. It’s a never-ending battle.

2014 Snow-006

On Saturday I looked out the back window to see the water flowing again. With all of the melting snow, I guess there was the danger of more flooding, so my neighbor broke through the dam once again. I knew it wouldn’t last, that the beavers would rebuild quickly. I figured this might be a good time to try out my long-term time lapse rig with the Raspberry Pi. (more…)

Time Lapse with Raspberry Pi

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Take a look at the video below:

Now look at this one:

Both of these time-lapse sequences are by UK photographer Neil Bromhall. These types of time-lapse photos take a huge time commitment – weeks and months. This one, from Norway, took a full year.

In order to get the correct effect, the camera must remain in place throughout the video. Unless you’ve developed some miraculous method for placing the camera in the exact same spot each time with the exact same zoom and focus, the image will jump around and not look right. That means that you’re going to have leave your camera there, probably outside, exposed to weather, and not very secure. (more…)

Cat Trio – A PicoBoard Theremin with Scratch

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Cat Trio

OK, I’m sure that’s the most confusing post title of all time. I’m sure it will make sense by the end of this post.

This is a Theremin…

Moog Theremin

Moog Etherwave Theremin

…and I want one. Unfortunately, Santa (aka, Laura) didn’t agree. Something about it being too expensive and weird-sounding. :-) Oh well. So, I decided to look into options for building one. I had been playing with the PicoBoard and MaKey MaKey, and thought those would provide excellent options.

It seems that everyone wants to make banana pianos with the MaKey Makey. Since a MaKey Makey imitates a keyboard, it’s great for discreet keys and tones. However, a Theremin operates on a continuum, sort of like a violin or trombone. Therefore something else was needed. That’s where the PicoBoard comes in, with its ability to return values along a continuum based on its sensors. (more…)

Fun with Small Electronics

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Small Electronics 2

Left to right, a MaKey Makey, A Picoboard, and a Raspberry Pi

I’ve been having fun with the MaKey MaKey. However, it has some limitations. As the name implies, it can substitute for any key. However, there are some limitations. If you want to get into sensors and other extended capabilities, you need more stuff. You can use the device as an Arduino, but you would need to add light sensors or microphones, etc. I decided to expand my capabilities. I added two more components to my collection – a Picoboard and a Raspberry Pi. I’ll start by describing the three boards and their capabilities, and will describe specific projects in later posts.

PicoBoard

PicoBoard

Since I’ve already described the MaKey MaKey, I’ll start with the Picoboard. The Picoboard contains a series of sensors, including a slider switch, push button, light sensor, audio sensor. These sensors are based on electrical resistance, and return a value based on that amount of resistance. There are four inputs for alligator clips that can be connected to conductive material, kind of like the MaKey MaKey.

PicoBoard

Since the MaKey MaKey substitutes for any key, it will work with just about any program, but it’s a perfect match for the Scratch programming language. The PicoBoard, on the other hand, will only work with Scratch, as far as I know. In fact, the PicoBoard was originally known as the Scratch Sensor Board. The device was built and sold by the Playful Invention Company until about 2009, when it was discontinued. It has since been picked up by SparkFun. In other words, it’s a board that’s got some age on it.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi B

The Raspberry Pi (RPi) is a full-fledged computer that will fit into an Altoid tin box. It has 512 MB of RAM, and ARM processor that handles Linux nicely, HDMI and composite video and audio outs, and two USB ports. Instead of a drive it reads and writes to an SD card. All of it is open sourced. Sweet. I got the B unit, which comes with an Ethernet port.

One of the great things about the RPi is that it can run several different operating systems. Most run Raspbian, which is a version of Debian Linux optimized for the RPi. However, it can run other distributions and can run a couple of different flavors of the XBox Media Center (XBMC). Since these boot off of an SD card, swapping to a new operating system is as simple as changing SD cards.

Raspbian

When these things first came out I had no idea how I might use one, but now I’ve got tons ideas. Most of these involve time lapse photography. More on that in a later post.

Each of these devices does something different and could be used for their own projects, but they also play very nicely together. Any of the programs that run on Linux will work with the MaKey MaKey. Raspberry Pi comes with Scratch installed, so it will work well with the PicoBoard. Right now I’ve got ideas of ways that I could create a type of Theremin, where the PicoBoard resistance sensors trigger the sound board on the Raspberry Pi, and instrument/timbre selections could be made with MaKey Makey connections.

So, lots to do an experiment with on these cold winter days. We’ll have to see see what I’m able to create.

UPDATE: I’ve been reading more online about these devices, and found a great video explaining the differences. The PicoBoard is based on an ATmega328 processor, which is the same processor used in many Arduino boards. Since the MaKey Makey is Arduino-based, this makes it more akin to the PicoBoard than the Raspberry. The following video does a great job of explaining the difference between Arduino and the RPi, and when you would want to use each.

Let’s consider one specific application of interest to me – Time Lapse Photography. If I were going to create a computer controlled dolly mechanism for panning a camera during a time-lapse session, I’d probably use an Arduino since it would primarily be controlling motors. If I were going to be controlling the camera directly, or collecting the images, I’d use the Raspberry Pi.

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