IntroductionI have always been fascinated by photographs about lightnings. While it is relatively easily to put a lightning strike in any photograph using image editing techniques :) I still prefer the real thing. Since photography is a hobby of mine, I wanted to be able to photograph lightnings. However, when I tried to do it without any specialized equipment, I didn't have much success.
|The finished product.|
I don't like the knob on the potentiometer, I just put it on for the sake of the photo - who knows when I will find a nicer one...
Reading a bit about the subject on the internet I found there are many designs/solutions available, to get around the problem. Since the price of the commercially available ones are too high for my budget (and let's face it, it's not much fun buying something ready made when you can also make it yourself), I decided to make one for myself for less.
I found many similar designs on different web sites and finally I came up with my own, which is - admittedly - very similar to one particular one I found on this photography site (only in Hungarian). I kept most of the design, but replaced the relays with opto couplers and put the whole thing in a plastic box to make it easy to drag around.
If you are interested to make one like this, please e-mail me. I can provide you with customized kits that contain as many or as few components as you need/like (from just a programmed microcontroller to a fully built and tested PCB) to suit your experience/skills. Please note, I do NOT provide the enclosure as it is very time consuming for me to make. The code for the PIC is also available on request.
HardwareThe circuit is based on a 16F628A PIC microcontroller. This is one of my favourite PIC micros and I have used it in several previous projects.
|Schematics of the circuit|
The cable that attaches to the camera is recycled from an old, cheap camera remote release cable - I just removed the original buttons from it. These remote release cables (for any camera that supports it) can be easily sourced through eBay for a couple of euros. My latest one for Nikon cameras cost around €1,50. The advantage of this is that you don't have to prepare your own special cable/connector combo for a specific camera, which can be tricky.
|The "El cheepo" remote release before...|
|... and after the conversion.|
The most difficult part of the project (for me) is almost always the presentation, i.e. a nice, user friendly case or housing. For this project I ordered a small plastic project box on eBay and customized it. The box is 130*24*68 mm, big enough to contain all the parts including the PCB and a 9V battery.
|The PCB was designed to fit snugly in the enclosure box next to a 9V battery|
Possible future improvements
More imagesI took the following pictures while I was assembling a device for someone. This is the recommended order of assembly, from small to larger elements.
|The empty PCB - front side|
|The empty PCB - back side|
|All the SMT resistors and capacitors soldered on|
|The two SMT ICs are also soldered on|
|The stabilizer IC and the optocouplers are also in their places|
|All the components are soldered on|
And finally, some close ups of the enclosure.
|Close-up of some of the control elements: ON/OFF switch, sensitivity potentiometer and connection for the camera remote release cable.|
|Four screws in the four corners hold the box together.|
Update 23/01/2013I have made some improvements to the PCB. It got smaller and some of the parts that have not been integrated to the PCB are now soldered to the PCB.
|Component side - v1.3|
|Solder side - v1.3|
I just won Lifehacker's "Best Camera Hacks" competition with this entry!