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Making Good

Posted by Tom Benedict on 17/09/2012

I’m still under a lot of pressure from this project at work, and an unfortunate amount of my weekend was devoted to that instead of weekend-ish type things. But I still set some time aside to go through my spare KAP bits, think about the rigs I want to make, and tinker.

Among other things, I made a start on the panorama rig. I found my Pololu Micro Maestro servo controller and loaded it with enough code to rotate the pan axis and trigger the shutter on the camera. So far so good. I had a spare Brooxes Utility Bracket, which I plan to use as the frame of the rig, and found a Futaba servo I’d already modified for continuous rotation. Unfortunately that’s as far as I could get. I don’t want to suspend a DSLR from a servo, so I really need a geared pan axis for this rig. I also didn’t have a spare Picavet to suspend it from, so I couldn’t even set up a dummy test.

Rather than call it quits, I built a panorama rig around my A650 instead. It’s light enough to suspend from a servo, and the rig uses all the same parts I’d need for the T2i pano rig. It’s still lacking a Picavet cross, but that’s all. Other than the Picavet, it’s ready to run. I ordered the geared axis and a Picavet cross from Brooks, and set the rig aside until the parts come in.

Afterward I toyed around with the idea of gutting my T2i rig, but I don’t have enough recent experience under my belt to make the rebuild worthwhile. The whole point of the rebuild is to address any existing problems with my gear. I’ve forgotten what those problems are! So rather than risk making my rig unusable, I took it out for a session at the beach.

In the past, 99% of my KAP sessions at Hapuna Beach have been from the north end, near the Hapuna Prince Beach Resort. But ever since Rydra’s surgery, we’ve tended toward the south end of the beach. The path to the north end of the beach includes a fairly hairy downhill section that Rydra found hard to navigate with only one eye. She used hiking sticks for a while, but finally said enough is enough. Besides, once we found the rocks at the south end of the beach were perfect for cliff diving, the kids were sold on the idea!

The wind has been spotty of late, but this time I lucked out. The light was only so-so, but the kite had plenty of pull to lift the heavy DSLR rig. I had some problems with the video link (hey! problems! I can address those!), so some of the time I was flying blind. But it was a good session.

Looking the Other Way

Early on I let the camera fly high, and took a picture looking toward the north, back where we used to go. If you click on the photo, it will take you to where it is hosted on Flickr. (This is true of every photo I post in my blog.) On the Flickr site there’s a note pointing out the location where most of my other Hapuna KAP photos have been made.

Hapuna Beach from the South

Since I’ve got most of a panorama rig sitting on the bench, I couldn’t help but make one manually using my existing rig. KAP panoramas are actually quite straightforward to make, provided the photos are made close enough together in time for the camera not to have much of a chance to move around in the sky. Since the wind was quite steady, this was easy to do even while aiming manually. But one of the ideas with a panorama rig is to minimize the time between shutter clicks. The code I put into the Micro Maestro times out to about one photo every three seconds. Still not as fast as the burst-KAP I did with my A650 HoVer rig, which could cycle the shutter every 1.1 seconds, but not bad. And if my plan works out the way I hope it does, the photos should be sharper with the new rig. (Sorry, that’s a topic for another post.)

But neither of these pictures really captures the fun of the south end of the beach: the cliffs. Hapuna Beach itself is a gently curving sandy beach with a shallow bottom and decent waves in the winter. The cliffs, on the other hand, are hard basalt, with sheer drops and crashing waves. If you pick your location carefully, there are spots where the water is quite deep. Deep enough to make for some good cliff diving.

Making the Break

My son found a good spot, but hadn’t scouted the water beforehand. I pointed out some rocks, and the fact that neither one of us knew how deep the water was. By then we were both too tired to scout, climb back up, and jump back in, so neither one of us jumped. Truth be told I think it’s a good spot. Next time I’ll bring snorkel gear and check out the landing zone before climbing up. Already I can see a whole set of cool pictures I could make from the air of people jumping off those cliffs.

I didn’t get as much weekend as I wanted. But now I’ve got a better idea about what I want to fix when I rebuild my BBKK rig, and I’ve got the parts on order to build out the panorama rig. Even better, I’ve got plans for my next outing. Any KAP session where you walk away excited about your next session is a good one in my book.

Yeah. I’m back.

– Tom

2 Responses to “Making Good”

  1. Great shots Tom,

    Great to see the DSLR rig in action.I think shooting from the other end of the beach is going to be good. Any chance of catching the dolphins again?

    I too am having problems with the 5.8GhHz video, I need to get more volts to feed it!

    Keep flying,

  2. Tom Benedict said

    I haven’t worked out all the bugs yet, but I’d like to get things set up not just for the dolphins, but for the humpback whales, too. The whales have been spotted already. They’re several months earlier this year than they were last. My boat is still out of commission, but all the parts are here now. With any luck there will be dolphin and whale KAP session in the next six months or so.

    I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your 5.8GHz gear, but it’s good to know I’m not alone! As part of the tear-down I’m going to borrow some tools from work to test it independent of the KAP gear. If it’s actually emitting the power it’s supposed to, I should have no issues with range. I suspect I have low voltage on the receiver end, which can’t help, and I think I may have dirty power on one or both ends, which certainly doesn’t help.

    So here’s the plan: I’ve got some filtered lab supplies at work I’m going to borrow next weekend to see if it’s power or something else. I’m also borrowing a real monitor because I’ve heard rumors that the little automotive LCDs are prone to flicker if there are variations in power supply voltage, or if there is static on the incoming video signal. The final test, which I’m not tooled up for, is to filter the video signal. I really really hope it’s a voltage issue and not something I need a video filter for. I’ll certainly post the results of my tests, however they turn out.

    Thanks again for all the kind words over the years. For the first time in a long while I can honestly say I will keep flying.



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