Saturday, January 24, 2015

DIY camera shutter release

In this entry I'm going to show you how you can create a wired camera shutter, using reasonably common items!

Remote shutters, wired or wireless, aren't very expensive. But that's not really the point, anyway.

Basically, you're going to need only one thing, an AUX-type cable that goes into the remote shutter port of your camera. I've got a (fairly outdated) Canon EOS 450D, and the remote shutter port is a 2,5mm jack. To my understanding, most Canon cameras have a 2,5mm port. Interestingly, it's the same kind of port that some older phones use as a headphone jack. Most PC's use its big brother, the 3,5mm connection, for microphones and speakers.

If your house has a box with random electronics, chances are you might find a suitable cable. I found several, but then again, we borderline electronics hoarders.

From left to right; 1. A standard 3,5mm AUX male. This is the kind of cable that goes from your TV to your surround sound system. The one everyone is looking for when you want to plug your ipod to a stereo at the party.

2. The malnourished sibling, 2,5mm. This one goes into your Canon, or your Nikon! And a few other seemingly arbitrary places! You need one of these for our project!

3. This is the sort of AUX connector that has your headphones at the other end. It has more connector rings.

Now, as long as your cable has a 2,5mm male at one end, it can have almost whatever at the other end. The cable I'm using has a 2,5mm that goes into the camera, and a standard 3,5mm male in the other end. This is the optimal cable to use for our remote shutter. The second best alternative, and probably the most common to find around the house, is a 2,5mm cable with male connectors at both end. (In case someone is confused by this terminology, it's called male because it's like a *hmm* that goes into a *hmm*, which is the female end, the port e.g. on your PC.)

Now, to the interesting part!

Remember what I said about some headphones having a 2,5mm connector? If those headphones have any sort of button (Typically somewhere along the cable), then they can probably be used as a remote shutter. Plug them in, and click the button to snap a picture! Your camera may have an options setting that you have to check for remote shutters, mine didn't. If you're brave enough, you might be able to cut the cable off on the far side of the button - The button should still be fully functional, and you'd be left with a very professional looking camera trigger.

I didn't have any 2,5mm headphones. But I had a 2,5mm male to male 3,5mm cable! I know that the buttons on those headphones work by connecting completing the circuit that correspond to the first and the last connectors on the AUX male plug. The shiny knob, and the bottom of the chrome shaft, so to speak.

How is that information helpful? Well, you can either strip the wires inside the headphone wire and touch one wire to the other, or solder a button between them. This can be useful if you only have a cable that ends in 2,5mm but has something else in the other end. Like a female jack, or something that adapts the cable into an older system. I had a video cable like that. You can still solder these into a usable remote shutter, but no one want's to solder anything... Atleast I didn't.

So if you have a male to male cable, with either 2,5mm in both ends or with a 3,5mm male in one end, you can do what I did.

You can use any metal object to close the circuit between the knob and the bottom connector on the shaft. A safety pin or a keyring, for example.

This is a small keyring! Snap snap snap snap. I wedged the bottom of the plug between the two rings, and with my finger I was able to roll the top so that the ring touches the knob on the end, which closes the circuit. Every time the circuit is closed, the camera snaps a picture. With Autofocus on, it focuses before taking a picture. When shooting in bulb-mode, where the shutter stays open as long as you press the button, the camera will keep shooting for as long as the circuit is closed.

This is another solution. It's the part on the top of soda/beer cans that you twist. Bend it to an angle. Stick the 3,5mm through the hole (If it's still intact.), it's like a perfect fit. Now, if I'm not mistaken, it's aluminium. Aluminium doesn't bend super well, and might break. It doesn't seem to be as reliable as the keyring or the safety pin in use, so I wouldn't recommend it for bulb photography.

This one is my favourite. It's just a bent safety pin. If you put it on a 3,5mm, like I did, then you might need to unwind the spring a bit to fit it around the plug. To make it fit snugly around a 2,5mm, you might want to wind the spring an extra lap around the connector.

It's that simple. Now you can take all kinds of no-arm selfies. You know, selfies look a lot better if the camera is farther away and zoomed in. But that's not the only benefit of a remote shutter, they're also very handy when you're doing long exposure photography, or filming a video.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Different techniques in digital drawing

Good morning readers! 

It's not actually morning here anymore, and I've been awake for several hours already. But being unemployed and not otherwise occupied, midday just never seems to begin. Because I have no set routines (Except for always waking up at 09:00, I do that!), everything's a sort of morning, midday or evening. It doesn't matter what you call them, because for me, they're all the same at this point!

So, Good times readers!

But, uh, to be perfectly honest, I'm getting a bit sick of it. Routines are good for us, for body and mind. And being unoccupied is kind of boring. In this sort of situation, you have nothing to look forward to. Except changing your situation, e.g. getting a job, which I've been hard at work at.

I guess we will just leave it at Hello readers!

Today I'm comparing and analyzing the procedure behind two of my most recent drawings. The first of these can be seen below. It's an angry snowman. There really isn't much more to say about it. Perhaps I'm getting tired of the chilling weather, and therefore I'm subconsciously applying my frustration to all things snowy. Who knows.
This analysis applies mainly to painting on a digital medium, by which I mean drawing with a digitizer pen and software like PhotoShop.

Anyhow, the approach to drawing this one was quite different from what I'm used to. As you can see in this GIF, I begin by drawing contour lines, and that's important because this decision shapes the stylistic direction of the painting, and it's basically always seen in the end result. It's very difficult to begin erasing all those black lines, because once they're there, you start to build up the painting and composition around them, and the painting relies on them to work.

When you later make the decision that those lines make the painting look not serious or unimpressive, you're going to regret you ever drew them. When you push that "Hide Layer"-button to make the lines disappear, your painting looks like crap again. Everything near a black line will have to be redrawn. And in that moment, you're going to wish you started out differently.

You're going to wish you started drawing like I did below! 

By blocking in general shapes and working on from there. I've written about the holistic approach to drawing before, and I won't go into much detail again. In practice, it means you start out with an extremely rough sketch and slowly work your way in to the finer details.

In the case of the snowman, beginning with the linework meant working from the details outward. It leads you to build up the artwork around those details. In some sense, it's easier because you always have a firm structure to rely on, which you can see I didn't have when I drew the male. I was sort of just winging it with the size of the head and general proportions. When you work like that, the first pass is rarely right. As you can see in the GIF, I have to change the size of his cranium 3-4 times before I'm satisfied with how it looks.

That's one of the drawbacks of the holistic approach. It's a lot harder to structure your art, and what often happens is you become blind to the structural mistakes you make. Looking back now, ten days after I drew the picture of that guy, the shape of the of his head really bothers me. Maybe that wouldn't have happened if I'd begun with linework.

Anyway. Holistic painting works better for me. A lot of painters have much success in mixing these two or simply always beginning with linework, but I find attractive linework really hard to do on a digital medium, which is why I avoid it. With traditional media I almost always begin by sketching the contour lines, but not so when I'm drawing on a tablet.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New beginnings

February third, 2012, this blog had its humble beginnings. Almost three years later, it has its new beginnings. I hope to bring it back to its heyday! But first, I need to learn how to draw again.

Because I've become rusty! Terribly so! These past six months in conscription have allowed for my digital drawing skills and technique to... Well, almost disappear, it feels! And it gnaws at my self-esteem.

Anyway, last night I gave my best go at getting into it again. Sure enough, I saw some success, which also makes up today's material in pictures. But it took many tries, and much fiddling! When you're used to drawing digitally, then every stroke seems meaningful, and you make less mistakes. The going is smooth and efficient. But when you haven't drawn in a while, you become almost clumsy! You have to go over areas again and again, over and over before the results becomes bearable. 

I drew maybe three or four pieces before this one, but I was unable to finish them. That's what happens when you feel like your work isn't going anywhere. It's extremely hard to stay motivated, and you just want to drop the pen altogether. Indeed, that feeling is the reason so many people never get into drawing. Even if someone one day decides to pick up drawing as a hobby, the disappointment of the first drawing not turning out as hoped is often too much to bear. All kinds of talent could be hidden beneath that mound of inexperience, but the first weeks of practice often prove too painful, and said person might never try again.

Not a lot of people may know this, but I'm actually trying to learn the ukulele. Admittedly, I suck. Because it's bloody difficult! Progress is slow, and I still can't manage simple songs, which is infuriating! I had the thing for some time now, but as I've been away from home now for the most part of the last six months, I haven't been able to practice properly. So far, it's led to nowhere! I really have no musical talent, I know that now. But if I'm dedicated, and I keep playing, I know I will learn it eventually. But the struggle is real. 

Anyway, there's that and here's this! Very basic. I need to get back in the hang of it. I wasn't feeling particularly inspired, and I already tried to draw all the things I had in my head. But they failed. I gave up my visions for something more familiar. Portraits truly are my strong side at this point. I need to diversify, but just as with the ukulele, failure can be extremely disencouraging. As artists will know, being able to draw one thing well definitely doesn't mean you can draw anything well. (And there are still tons of faults in my portraits! I still fail to draw faces in proper perspective, for one. They look okay, but they're wrong.)

GIF's. In this purpose, they're short, easy to digest, and a fancy way to tell a story! I've been told these are helpful, and they're fairly easy to create using the right software. In the next entry, we'll take a closer look at what I did while drawing this one, and how it compares to at least one other digital drawing technique!