Adafruit Learning System Weekly Update: Fun with Photography

This week on the Adafruit Learning System we are going to take a look at a whole bunch of guides involving cameras and photography. If you are new to photography, or if you are a seasoned pro, this group is filled with fun and creative ways to take photography to the next level. But first lets take a look at what’s new on the Adafruit Learning System.

Favorite New Guide

This week my favorite new guide will show you how to build a Raspberry Pi case inspired by the Connection Machine supercomputer.

The Connection Machine was a groundbreaking massively parallel supercomputer of the mid-1980s and 90s. Just as incredible as the machine’s performance was its industrial design: an ominous black cube-of-cubes, with system activity conveyed through thousands of red LEDs. It looks straight out of sci-fi…but it’s real!

There are a handful of truly iconic computer designs, like the distinctive “C” shape and built-in bench of early Cray supercomputers, but the Connection Machines are simply the best, period. I’m sorry, this isn’t mere subjective opinion, it’s irrefutable science. Look at it!

Not only are Connection Machines exceedingly scarce, with just a few dozen existing in museums and private collections, but their size and power requirements would make them impractical to own.

But now, thanks to 3-D printing and some Adafruit components, you can build a Little Connection Machine for your desk. This can house a Raspberry Pi 4 computer…or, if you don’t want or need the whole Linux-based computer and just want the blinkenlights…a Pico microcontroller board.

A group of great guides for green thumbs

Click here for the photography groups page on the Adafruit Learning System.

DIY Thermal Light Painting – Heat Map Photography

In this project we’ll use a temperature sensor to change the color of a NeoPixel ring to create heat map photography. A cyber-tronic looking sensor measures remote infrared light making it a contact-less temperature sensor.

This 3D Printed project comes in two different styles. This neoblaster makes a practical ray gun and this ergomonical handle resembles a magnifying glass.


Instant Camera using Raspberry Pi and Thermal Paper

“Instant photography” with Polaroid cameras was a thing up through the 1990s until ubiquitous digital photography took hold…though, like vinyl music, the medium has since made a nostalgic resurgence.

In this project, we’ll replace chemical film with more modern electronic parts: a Raspberry Pi computer and camera paired with a diminutive thermal printer, all working off a battery. Press a button, get a print!

This camera-and-thermal-printer combination is not a new idea…Nintendo released their Game Boy Camera and Printer as mass-market devices in 1998. What’s exciting is that we no longer need the resources of a giant corporation to create something similar…inexpensive computer power and open source software make infinite customization possible!


DotStar Pi Painter

Digital light painting is a consummate maker project, a marriage of electronics, code, photography…and of course lots and lots of LEDs!

Using a long (several seconds) camera exposure, a single row of LEDs under computer control displays an image one line at a time while it’s carried or rolled across the frame. The combined result is a luminous picture floating in air.

We’ve done light painting guides before — like our original Light Painting with Raspberry Pi and the Arduino-based NeoPixel Painter — it’s a topic we like to revisit whenever there’s a substantial evolution in the available technology. Each used a new generation of addressable LED strips.

This latest blend of Raspberry Pi computer and DotStar LEDs may be the ultimate, with no size constraints, easy image loading (just plug in a USB flash drive full of pictures) and super buttery smooth interpolation and dithering.


Color Spinning Camera Ring Light

Photography lighting is a tricky business. This project aims to create an easy add-on that can work with any camera, film or digital, to illuminate subjects and scenes with custom colors.

To add an extra fun element to this ring light, we can select the color by turning a color wheel, the color that is above the light sensor on the CircuitPlayground will be the color displayed!

This project is a fun introduction to soldering and coding, and is easy to adapt for different lighting purposes.

ALS Deep Cut

With so many guides on the Adafruit Learning System, some amazing guides of years past get buried and lost. ALS Deep Cuts brings these guides back up to the surface. This week’s guide is from back in 2015.

Cup o’ Sound – Cafe White Noise Machine

Bring the productive bustle of ambient coffee shop sounds with you anywhere by building a white noise machine in a cup! This project uses the Adafruit Audio FX Board to play a 30 minute audio file on repeat. The circuit is battery powered with the help of a lipoly backpack, which also allows for convenient recharging over USB and the easy addition of a power switch. A speaker rests inside the lip of the cup, driven by a class D audio amplifier using a 10K potentiometer for volume control.

The Cup o’ Sound requires no programming and is excellent for practicing your through-hole and free-wire soldering skills. The result is a satisfyingly compact handful of portable sound that can be reused in many contexts or rewired to act as a speaker alone.

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