Category: Tech/Gear

Mooned by a Bird. This is War!

The saga with birds and camera equipment continues since an earlier post, “Birds 6, Dan 0.”  …

Looking Up: Camera Platform

June 29, 2012.      To create the time lapse sequences for “Looking Up: The Sky Over Penland,” a high and very stable platform was needed.   This platform will hold 1-3 cameras during any type of weather and will be used for the next 8 months.  That means through January, winter and high winds!

60 foot Tripod at the National Academy of Sciences

May 25, 2012.      The Imaging Research Center (IRC) at UMBC is creating an iPad app for visitors to explore and understand the gold-leaf painted dome of the Great Hall at the National Academy of Sciences.  The building, which was built in the 1920s and sits on the National Mall, was recently refurbished.

Aerial Photography Balloon Camera Rig #2

May 5, 2012.      Here is a quick video from the Oak Branch Series that describes a new version of a camera rig to hold a small point-and-shoot camera from a helium balloon.  This builds upon all the good work that The Public Laboratory ( has done in this area of balloon and kite photography for mapping purposes.  The refinement gives more control and stability of the camera as it is buffeted by the wind.  

Hacking a Canon PowerShot for Time Lapse.

After months of reading, there are only a few options for launching a high quality light-weight camera onto a balloon that can take photos every few seconds.  I went with hacking a Canon PowerShot camera with CHDK.  Haven’t floated it up yet, but on the ground it is allowing full manual control of everything and it shoots RAW images.  Perfect for the quality that is needed.  Next step is to use it in the air.  If you want a bit more information on CHDK,  continue reading…

Balloon Aerial Photography Test 2

This image is about the only good thing to come from this second test of the GoPro Camera hanging in a plastic bag on a 3 foot helium balloon.  I was able to photograph for almost an hour before the balloon just exploded in mid-air and the camera landed at my feet.  The camera was OK, but the 300 recorded images finally confirmed that the GoPro camera is just not going to give me the quality that is needed.  I need a camera with a decent lens, ability to shoot RAW, and can be manually set for all things: color […]

Balloon Aerial Photography Test 1

First test used a GoPro Camera hanging from a 3 foot helium filled balloon in a plastic bag.  The bag simply cradles the camera aiming down and the lens pokes through a hole in the bag.  This is a simple light-weight and weather-resistant solution.   The GoPro camera was set to time-lapse mode and shooting an image every 5 seconds.  It was raining, the balloon was quite wet and there wasn’t enough helium in the balloon to keep it floating well.   This was done at Penland School where the front knoll is mowed with this crazy random path and […]

Missing Mercator: Alternative Projections

  Flattening a full 360° spherical image onto a 2D surface involves different projection methods.  The most familiar to us is the “Mercator” projection, developed by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 that has been used for centuries to display the globe on a 2D map.  This image of Earth is typical of this method and is comfortable to us, but it is actually very distorted.  We all know that Antarctica is not 5 times the size of South America.   For various reasons we disregard these particular distortions. Mercator’s projection method makes immediate sense because moving up from any point on the […]