Canon S95

It was time to replace my trusty Canon SD770IS. I wanted another Canon camera for a couple of reasons: they have great battery life, well made, but most importantly i could continue to use the CHDK program.

I still wasn't sure whether i should get a new camera that cost around $200 or buy a cheap used one for around $80.
I thought about getting a used Canon PowerShot A580. New they cost around $180, but i could not find a used one. Canon PowerShot A580, CHDK, cost, review, price
As far as new camera's i looked at getting the Powershot ELPH 300 HS, it was recently on sale for $160. That bad part is that they haven't written the CHDK program for that specific model. Maybe they will in the future but i decided not to get it right now.
Canon PowerShot ELPH 300HS, CHDK, size, review, price, cost
I had seen and read about the Canon S95 for a while now. Every magazine review says it's the best point and shoot camera there is. The downside is that it cost $400.
But after Thanksgiving it went on sale for $290.

It was the closest thing to what i wanted, a DSLR that's not $1000 and fits in my pocket. So i bought it.
Canon S95, CHDK, DSLR, RAW image, sensor size
Here's what the CHDK program menu looks like on the camera.Canon S95 camera review, menu using CHDK
I also bought a leather case that attaches to the camera. It's a little awkward to take pictures while the case is attached.
Canon S95 camera leather case, protect
But i do like it when it is completely covered.
Canon S95 camera full leather case, cost, price
I still might get a cheap used Canon for the more "risky" type of pictures, like tying it to a kite.

Star Pictures

Before i crashed the kite and broke the camera i took these pictures of stars from the roof of my garage. They were 50 seconds exposures (which was a bit too long, 30 or 40 would have been better) and this time i did not use the dark frame subtraction so there wasn't a 50 second wait time in between each picture. Although there was some dark patches in the pictures, probably due to the lens.

Again this was done by combining several pictures that were taken over about an hour. Half way through some clouds blew in and screwed it up a bit.
Here's the original, untouched picture taken over the first 30 minutes. star trails, canon CHDK, long exposure
Here's the other original picture over the entire hour.
star trails, canon CHDK, long exposure, star, sky, night
I Photoshopped them look better. star trails, exposure time, star, sky, night
I just randomly pointed the camera toward the sky, you can see that i almost got the North Star in the upper right hand corner.
This one i used a purple lens filter effect how to increase exposure using CHDK
For better results i need to use a better camera, on a night with no clouds and in an area out in the country where the stars are really bright.
star trails, night sky, long exposure

Backyard Pond

I thought it would be a cool idea to make a pond in my backyard. Next summer i could plant the lotuses and lily-pads, maybe add some goldfish too.

Here's the area i planned on putting the pond. It would be 'L' shaped and fit in between the wood fence and the concrete slab.
design a bakyard pond
I dug down about 4" the approximate area of the pond. I removed the topsoil, leaving the clay.
dig a backyard pond, garden, diy, make
Then in Photoshop I drew in what i thought the pond might look like. I added water, rocks, lotuses and a tiny waterfall in the corner. The waterfall would help aerate the pond and i would also filter the water using a homemade first flush filter.
photoshop to see what a pond in the garden will look like
photoshop landscape, pond, garden, plants, house

Final Flight

After getting the flowform kite to fly with the camera i was almost ready for my homemade kite to give it a try. Here's the link from the earlier kite making.
I did the last bit of finishing touches to the kite
, mainly the bridle. Then i had to make a better, steadier, harness for the camera. The thing to use is called a picavet. It is a harness and bracket that ensures that the camera is always level, no matter what angle the string is at.picavet gif, level camera, KAP

This was my first attempt. I used light aluminum box tubing and pvc tubes instead of pulleys. It was pretty light, but i didn't like it.DIY, homemade picavet, aluminum
So next i made this out of a thick wire hanger. Simple and strong.
new picavet, diy, make, wire hanger

Someone online said that they attach it to the kite string using a simple metal o-ring. It loops over the line and seemed like a good idea. I didn't have an o-ring so i used copper washers.
KAP, kite aerial photography, o-ring

I first tried the Rokkaku kite, but it was way too windy and it didn't fly at all. The kite kept zig-zagging back and forth. So i used the flow-form kite that flew before when the wind was really blowing hard.
Again it went right up with the camera. Photo from my kite and 200 feet, KAP, kite aerial photography
This time i was in the park down the street.
kap photography, canon camera, CHDK intervalometer
That's 15 mile road at the top.
canon camera, CHDK, intervalometer, up in the air
aerial view of houses, taken with a camera and kite
aerial view of houses, taken with a camera and kite
Notice the sidewalk down there...
falling camera, from a kite, broken camera
Well i guess the saying is "you can't make an omelet without cracking some eggs."

smashed canon camera after falling from kite
Just as i started pulling the kite in the string snapped and it fell to the only area of pavement, of course, the bike path.
The problem was that the washers used had too sharp of edges and after 20 minutes the kite string snapped.

metal washers snapped line of kite

kite floated away, even after an hour of looking for it i never saw it again. I'm pretty sure it landed in someones backyard on the other side of the woods.

Since the camera was totally broken i decided to just take it apart and see how it's made.
disassembled SD770is canon camera
disassembled SD770is canon camera, all pieces, parts
I plan on getting another used or new Canon camera and making another flow-form kite.
It's a bummer, but i've needed a different camera for a while. That one had so many things wrong with it:
  • broken battery door
  • dirt inside lens
  • missing lens cover
but it always worked and was great for doing these CHDK projects.

PhotoFly 3D_30

I read in a magazine about Autodesk Photofly 2.0. It's a free program from the same company that does AutoCAD, which is the software that i use at work.

The way it works is that you take lots of pictures of something from all different angles, then upload it to Autodesk and it creates a 3D image.

The hard part is taking all the pictures. The easy part is that once you are done you just upload them and the program does the rest. Well sort of, the first time i tried it, it said that i didn't have enough images to create a 3D image. And the program crashes a lot.

My first try was an old fishing reel. I took about 40 pictures, but apparently that wasn't enough.

The next try i took a bunch of pictures of the clay ocarina i made. It didn't come out right but at least it sort of worked.

Here's "part" of my car in the driveway.

Obviously it's not perfect but it's still kind of cool.



Karrie and i saw Moneyball the other night. It was a great movie.

It's based on the true story of the Oakland Athletics trying to compete in baseball with only a fraction of the payroll of teams like the New York Yankees.

Brad Pitt was the general manager that realized that he could not compete by doing the same thing the other teams were doing.
Brad Pitt stars in Moneyball as Billy Bean, Oakland Athletics GM
Jonah Hill played the guy that majored in economics and calculated the players with the most value.
Jonah Hill stars in Moneyball, movie, with brad pitt, funny guy
It showed cool inside meetings of how players were traded to different teams.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill stars in Moneyball, movie, great together
It was a little slow at times but overall really interesting and funny.
Thumbs Up Rating


Kite + Camera

Another use of CHDK that i wanted to try is KAP or Kite Aerial Photography. The simple explanation is just tying a camera to a kite and have it set to take pictures while it's flying. The complicated explanation involves big kites, heavy line, carbon fiber poles and pulleys.

My first attempt was to keep it simple. So when i was at Katie and John's a while back i bought an $8 kite from Harbor Freight. Then while watching the MSU vs UofM game i made a super simple case for the camera out of a bubble-wrap envelope.
DIY case for camera out of Tyvek and bubble wrap
The next day john, katie and i tried to fly it but it wasn't even windy enough to get the kite in the air, let alone the kite and the camera.

Testing out the kite for KAP aerial photography
After reading some more i saw that people use huge kites to lift their cameras.
I first thought of a Flow-form kite. Kind of like a para-sail, it doesn't require any struts or poles. I even saw that i could use a balloon.

To lift a pound i would need a helium balloon just bigger than 3 feet in diameter.
How much will a balloon lift

But the more i kept reading, the more i heard that the best kite to use for kite photography is the Rokkaku kite. It's supposedly easy to make, easy to fly and very stable.
Stability is important because you want the camera to be as steady as possible so the pictures don't come out blurry.

I looked at the plans, it seemed easy enough, so i decided to make the 6 foot rokkaku kite.
Rokkaku kite dimensions, plan, inches
Here's the extra strength nylon thread i used.
Extra Strength Nylon Thread, spool
Here it is after i cut and laid everything out. I still had to sew it all down. I used rip-stop nylon for the material. It's lightweight and strong.
Rip stop nylon material for kite, kap, aerial photography, rokkaku
I first sewed the edge and the corner braces.
sewing the kite corners, nylon, braces
I screwed up a bit, they all got bunched up at the corners.
sewing the kite corners, nylon, braces, zig-zag
The squares turned out ok.
sewing the kite corners, nylon, braces, zig-zag, gussets
The circles were another story.
circle, sewing the kite corners, nylon, braces, zig-zag, gussets
Then i punched the hole in the center and strengthened it with thread.
circle with hole, sewing the kite corners, nylon, braces, zig-zag, gussets
Here's the velcro strap to hold down the struts.
velcro strap for kite, make, sew
I was able to do 2 before i broke the needle on the sewing machine. Sewing by hand looked even worse. I kept saying to myself, it doesn't matter how it looks as long as it fly's.
velcro strap for kite, make, sew by hand
But i eventually got everything on there.
rokkaku kite, nylon, kap, kite aerial photography
For some reason the corners and the strap points didn't exactly line up. I'm still not sure why, but i think it's because i measured all of them from the edge 15 inches but then i folded the corner over 3/4 inch. I guess now i know that the 3 braces in the center should be different from the 2 corners. You can see how the corners don't really line up.
rokkaku kite, nylon, kap, kite aerial photography
I then had to make the pockets for the fiberglass poles to lock into. They were a pain to make. The top ones have velcro and will fold over. kite strap nylon braces, pole holder
Here's what they look like when the velcro is attached.
hand sew kite brace, nylon
More crooked sewing when trying to sew them to the kite. learn to sew a kite, brace
Lined up with the pole.
learn to sew a kite, brace with the pole
First the pole is slid through then it's folded over and held with velcro.
learn to sew a kite, brace with the fiberglass pole
Here it is locked in.
how to sew a rokkaku kite, brace, corner, nylon, fiberglass pole, rod
The string is needed to create the bow in the pole.
kite tension string, fiberglass pole
I'm not sure if the fiberglass rods i'm using will work, they might be too heavy. They are solid fiberglass and they should be hollow tubes or carbon fiber.
assembled rokkaku kite, ready to fly
Here's the strings pulled tight to create the bow in the poles. Adjusting the tension causes the kite to fly at different angles.
tension on the fiberglass rod for kite
Also after the practice flight i realized that my reel wasn't going to work. It took too long to wind up all the line on the small spool.
homemade kite spool, wood
The easiest thing that i saw was a simple piece of wood with handles. Here's the pattern i drew on AutoCAD then printed out on 11"x17" paper.
wood string spool for kite pattern, autocad
This is it after i rounded the corners with the router, sanded, stained and waxed.
wood string spool for kite pattern, with string
The last things i had to do was to add a tail for stability and rig the 4 lines that attach to the kite string.

But... before i did that there was a super windy day in November. The wind was gusting up to 30mph. So i thought i could try a small airfoil kite.

I tied on the same bubble-wrap case i made before. It was so windy that the kite was able to lift the camera with no problem.
view of parafoil kite, kap
kap, camera and parafoil kite, CHDK, intervalometer
The wind was so strong that i thought the kite string was about to break. But i left it up around 200 feet for about 15 minutes. The camera was taking pictures every 5 seconds.

Now this is definitely not the way that kite photography is suppose to be done. It was too windy, the kite was too unstable, the camera rig was not level and it was too dark outside. But i just wanted to see how it would turn out.

Here's the typical picture i got. Out of 180 pictures, 95% of them looked like this, blurry and upside down.
blurry kap photo, aerial photo
Here's why they were so blurry.

But amazingly i got a couple of decent ones. That's me on the football field and my car in the parking lot.
kap, aerial photo from a kite
The church parking lot next door.
kap, aerial photo from a kite
You can see the kite string in this one.
how to take pictures with a kite
aerial kite picture
It was a good learning experience for when i use my homemade kite. I'm going to try it on a day with steady calm winds, sunny sky and a better camera rig. We'll see how that goes.