FDE Is the New Black

It’s the new fad anyway. And, I don’t say that disparagingly. I think flat dark earth is cool when executed properly. You all know of Jennifer’s famous pistol.

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Heck, some of my favorite customers have FDE guns.

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And of course, Jennifer has been working on building her new rifle, based on an Aero Precision lower receiver finished in flat dark earth.

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She will certainly have something posted about her progress soon. I will throw in that this stripped lower is top notch. From what we can see so far, these things are hard to beat for the money.

But still, as cool as FDE guns are, this is a current trend. It’s a fashion. I suspect tack blactical will always be with us, even as manufacturers taper off their offerings of other trendy colors, just as automotive manufacturers tapered off production of tail fins as though they were an embarrassing piece of the past to be ashamed of. My parents once had a refrigerator in harvest gold that they had purchased new. Almost twenty years ago, it was still running like a top, but was horribly out of style. so, they had it refinished in white. It has since died and been replaced. A good refrigerator will last decades. A good gun will last several lifetimes. As people accumulate guns in pink, purple, flat dark earth, and olive drab, as opposed to the classics in stainless or blue, black and wood, will they ultimately fall out of fashion and look gauche or do these trendy colors have staying power?

In twenty years, will we see people painting black over their FDE guns? I certainly hope not! As I previously stated, guns last a long time. What is trendy today will fall out of fashion and look hokey; this is inevitable. However, let time continue to do its work beyond that, and it will come back around and rather than unfashionable, these guns will suddenly become retro. Jennifer and I nearly bought a house that had a complete kitchen straight from the harvest gold era. Only, the appliances were olive green. The tile was brown and the cabinets were all walnut stained. Although it was very dated, it was well done and clean enough to have charm in its apparent age. Had we purchased that home, we probably wouldn’t have changed a thing in the kitchen.

I didn’t have much experience with guns in FDE when OldNFO opened up his Pelican case of toys and pulled out his FNP45 Tactical. It was a full-on assault on the eyes. Although the action was tight, and the gun had an overall feel of quality and competency, it was that weird color: not quite brown, not quite green. He commented on how much he hated it, but not because of the color. It was because of the decocker. You can carry the gun cocked and locked, but as an avid 1911 shooter, OldNFO would hit the safety hard enough to decock the gun, defeating the purpose of carrying it ready for an initial single-action shot.

Contrary to his personal code, OldNFO sold us that gun, and Jennifer has loved it for the last two and a half years or so. I eventually got used to the color scheme. It’s gotten comments from fellow range patrons, blog meet goers, gun manufacturer reps, and others. In our stable, it is joined by Jennifer’s new rifle project in the same color scheme.

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There is not a doubt in my mind that these will go out of style and look goofy next to more classic offerings or whatever the new trend turns out to be, but I’m at complete peace with that. Just as it’s a conversation piece now, it will be a conversation piece in half a century, or probably even more so. Besides that, it’s fun to talk about an evil black rifle that isn’t black. Indeed, the next rifle I build will probably be in a funky color instead of Scary Black. Keep on buying those funky colors, and carry them proudly, even when they’re no longer cool!

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Sadly, Ruger has already abandoned the gold anodizing on their 22/45 LITE in lieu of a more easily marketable black anodizing. I will still cherish my obsolete gold model though, complete with the pink ivory grips I made to fit it. So, to celebrate the trends that will almost certainly fall by the wayside, I write these words while wearing my pale tan western boots with brown lizard wingtips. Where did I put my disco shirt anyway?

Science Is Fun!

Last night I walked into the bathroom in my socks, which promptly became soaked with water. Uh oh. When I turned on the light, I saw that there was a pretty large puddle on the floor next to the pet waterer. The cord that goes to the pump was draped at such an angle that the water had dripped down it to the floor which had amassed the offending pool. Immediately I knew that this was a Teen Bot error, and decided to turn it into a teachable moment. I called Teen Bot to the bathroom and drew his attention to the cord.

“This is why it is important to make sure that the cord doesn’t touch the floor,” I explained. As we spoke, it became clear that he didn’t have an understanding of surface tension. Hoo boy. So, after we took care of the water in the bathroom, I took him back to the kitchen and drew a glass of water, narrating what I was doing along the way. I ground some pepper onto the surface of the water until the surface was well speckled with ground pepper and asked him if he understood what was going on there.

“The pepper is floating because it’s lighter than the water,” he said. As I started shaking my head he corrected himself, “well, I mean it’s less dense than the water.”

“Nope,” I corrected, “the pepper is actually more dense than the water, but it wants to be dry and the water has surface tension that is holding it up. Now, if we take some detergent…” I grabbed the bottle of Dawn and continued, “we can’t feed detergent to the cats, which would simplify the waterer situation, but check this out.” When I dropped a little squeeze of Dawn into the peppered water. The pepper predictably retreated from the drop point and continued to sink to the bottom of the glass.

“Woah,” said Teen Bot.

I smiled at him, “Yes. The detergent breaks the surface tension and the pepper sinks. This is why science is cool and fun. You can learn how the world works in little ways like this. I love that stuff, surface tension, venturi effect…”

Teen Bot stared blankly.

“You don’t know what the venturi effect is?” I asked incredulously. Out came the same glass, rinsed and refilled. I took a drinking straw and cut two small pieces out of it. “Hold this glass for me please.” I held the longer straw segment in the water and positioned the shorter piece at the top of it, pointed at Teen Bot. I blew through the straw and the ensuing spray of water hit his shirt. He laughed hysterically. “Now see,” I said, “when you’re out to pizza with your friends, you can use that trick to spray Coke all over them and make them mad at you. Can you tell me why that works that way?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Bernoulli’s Principle? No? An airplane’s wing is flat on the bottom and rounded on top. The air on top of the wing is moving faster, so it creates a low-pressure zone and the higher pressure air under the wing lifts the plane?”

“Oh right,” Teen Bot said, “I just forgot the name of it.”

I continued, “the venturi effect works pretty much the same way. The air coming out of the straw makes a low pressure zone that sucks the water up the straw and into the airstream.”

“Oooooooohhhhhh,” Teen Bot said, bells ringing.

I know, technically nothing sucks. The low pressure zone simply gives the atmospherically pressurized water somewhere to go. I swear, I knew all of this stuff before high school. What in the world are they teaching kids in school anymore? In all fairness, it was likely taught and he simply wasn’t paying attention. I’m confident that it was memorable enough that he’ll be a little more careful with the pump cord though. And, it was a fun father/son moment as well.

Of Operating Systems

For weeks now, those of us who are lazy unfortunate enough to have been using Windows 8 have been looking forward to the first update, Windows 8.1. The upgrade was free, and the yes-men reviewers on the interwebtron have been crowing about how wwwwuuuuunnnnndddeeerrrrffffuuuuullll it is. And, hoo-boy! Let me tell you what! When I went to my laptop yesterday morning, it notified me that it had installed updates. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I thought maybe the OS fairy had updated my computer. But no. So, after pawing around the ‘net, trying to figure out how to install this thing, and after a couple hours futzing with it to convince it to download and install, I booted up into Microsoft’s latest creation. It was at least two hours, and seemed significantly longer, but regardless seems entirely too long for the download and install of some 3.5-ish gb of an OS upgrade. I seem to remember that I used to download and install a far more full-featured Debian system in a fraction of the time back in the day. Regardless, I started poking around at the new features. Perhaps this is worth a review.

Windows 8.1 gets a good solid ‘meh’ rating from me. Apparently the ‘.1’ means ‘NOW WITH START BUTTON! AGAIN!!!’ in Microsoft-speak. At one of my day jobs, I had a supervisor who had me log into one of their brand new laptops to complete some kind of work training program. He asked eagerly if I had yet used a Windows 7 machine, which I told him that I had not. He told me an overview of what my task was and to his surprise, I performed the action as he started to explain the steps, despite the fact that my M$ experience was only as recent as XP.

“I thought you said you hadn’t used 7 yet,” he noted incredulously.

“I haven’t,” I shrugged, “it’s just more Windows.”

Seriously. They didn’t label the ‘start’ button as such and the interface was slicker. It ran the same anyway. When I got my last laptop, it shipped with Vista. XP to Vista? Yawn. Vista was bloated and buggy, but otherwise basically a slicked-up XP. Vista to 7? The latter works better, but it’s mostly just an ironed out version of the former. The transition from 7 to 8, I was nervous about. For no good reason, I might add. I found that since I only run 8 in ‘desktop mode,’ it’s basically the same but without that button and a start screen instead of a start menu. I’m not sure what I expected from ‘.1,’ but I guess significantly more than the return of THE BUTTON. And, since this isn’t really long enough to be a stand-alone review of 8.1 (which looks like ‘B.J.’ at a glance), I may as well just rant on about the common operating systems in general.

Windows is like your basic white bread. Virtually nobody really likes it, and it’s not really worth what you pay for it, but it will make a sandwich for like 99% of the people and institutions out there. It’s relatively cheap and easy enough. Mac OS, on the other hand, is like the mass-produced baguette-bread you might get at some hipster coffee shop chain. It tastes marginally better than the M$ white bread, but it’s stupidly overpriced, and the people who habitually eat it think their farts don’t stink. If you use Mac OS, it doesn’t make you look nearly as cool and interesting as you think it does. So sorry. Linux is like all the ingredients you can buy at the grocery store to go home and bake your own bread. You stand there at the check out counter with your flour and eggs and whatever else goes into the recipe, stupidly grinning at the cashier with the anticipation of how delicious and healthy your bread will be when you get done with it. If you have acquired the knowledge and skills, and if you put in the time and effort, that’s going to be some dang fine bread for sure, made to your specifications. Most of us have neither the time nor patience for that nonsense. Even Ubuntu, arguably the easiest Linux distro is like getting the packet of ingredients that you mix up and throw in your breadmaker. I haven’t found it to be worth the effort for the returns.

So, I’ve been using M$ Windon’t variants. For a while, I did dilly dally with Linux, and still admire it as an OS, but it just takes far too much work to get to where I want it to be. My KDE desktop environment (meta redundancy deliberate) was prettier and faster than anything M$ or Mac available, on half the hardware. And then, I’d go and edit some config file, crash the thing, and wasn’t smart enough to fix it. Weeks of work down the drain and out a computer to boot. Pun much intended. There are even a couple of iThings in the house that we spent some time playing with in the past. We begrudgingly use Windows because the OS market kind of sucks. Either you’re a serious DIYer, or you buy from the box whichever of the big boy is the lesser of two evils.

Why isn’t there a basic, affordable organic market bread OS out there? It would be totally great if there was one that was as configurable as Linux, as robust as the more obscure ‘nixes, as easy as Windon’t or Mac OS, that would run basic programs, and would behave with whatever hardware combination out of the box. If Android was developed into something that most people would want to use on a desktop system, then maybe it might fill such a hole in the market. My guess is that it would be far more likely to just turn out like a clone of Mac OS or Ubuntu instead.

I guess the major take away from this rant is that operating systems pretty much suck in general. Hardware is gaining speed at an alarming rate, but the software isn’t reflecting that progress. We can look around and marvel at how sophisticated technology is, but without the software to back up the hardware, we’re spinning our wheels in the long run. A friend of mine was a programmer in the old days. His school classes taught him that the computers only had so many resources, so you had to program lean to stay usable. Then one day, this guy Bill Gates came by and said that all these computers had to be faster to run this new whiz-bang thing that he came up with. And, here we are.

Somebody out there, someone smarter than me, get off your butt and get to coding already.

p.s. – This morning, I had to restart the network card in order to connect under 8.1 this morning, just as I have routinely had to do under 8 point nothing. So many dazzling improvements…

KTKC 2013 Day 27, Recap from Yesterday

As you all know by now, the least sane of us have been kilted this month to raise awareness about male specific cancers, and to seek sponsorship in the endeavor to benefit related charities. Please feel free to throw some bucks at my Prostate Cancer Foundation page.

Sometime last week, we ran out of paycheck at the end of the bills. This happens more often in September than any other time of the year. Especially when we just upgraded phones. And, accidentally lost $500 to an embarrassing clerical error. Oops. On Wednesday, we ran out of coffee. Yesterday, I decided to use Coca Cola as my caffeine delivery system, but my body wasn’t having any of that nonsense.

For a while, my uncle was brewing green coffee, as he had read that it was the new, popular ‘superfood’ that would cure all that ails you. He got tired of drinking green coffee and gave me half a bag of green Brazilian santos that he no longer had any use for. Last summer was entirely too hot to roast coffee, as is produces entirely too much smoke to roast indoors, and consequently I still have quite a bit of this hanging around. So, yesterday, I dug out the roaster that I made out of a popcorn popper and a grill thermometer, and threw a pound of green santos in it on the grill’s side burner.

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Once the beans achieved the proper color, aroma, and sound, they went into the colander to remove the chaff.

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Update – sorry. I got twitchy on my publish button, apparently.

While the coffee beans were cooling, Jennifer and I put together a couple of smoked tri tip roast quiches with home grown parsnips, onions, and basil, topped with white cheddar. We baked one for dinner and threw the other in the freezer for next time. Over dinner we watched classic Doctor Who with Teen Bot. After Teen Bot went to bed, we pickled up jalapeño hybrids* and pear tomatoes from our garden with some garlic chunks. Although I’m a little disappointed at the anemic production of our garden over the last few years, yesterday reminds me that we really are producing quite a bit of our own stuff. As we sat and relaxed before bed, I commented that I wish my shoulder wasn’t bothering me so much because I’d like to get that couch cushion stitched shut finally.

Again, please do consider sponsoring me in this year’s KTKC drive. You can donate here. We only have three more days to go!

*Having planted our peppers too close together this year, they apparently cross-pollinated. Our best guess is that our jalapeños crossed with our habaneros, or possibly some kind of demon. They are bright red and wicked hot.

A Queer Mix of Tech

When we pick up these new smart devices, i.e. smartphones and tablets, one thing often missing is they keyboard.  When I upgraded from my Epic 4G to my S III, I sorely missed the keyboard at first.  I have since learned to adjust to the difference, but at first, I vowed to find a solution to have a physical keyboard for the phone.  Curious. 

I am currently typing this entry on an IBM M keyboard that I acquired at a junk store some time back.  I have it attached to my Samsung Galaxy S III phone by way or a PS3 to USB adapter plugged into a USB to Micro USB adapter.  I had my doubts that this would work, but I had to give it a whirl.  These are arguably the finest keyboards ever made, and they do make a very satisfying ‘click’ with each keystroke.  This is one of the later units in the production, being a 1996 model.  Despite it being nearly twenty years old, it seems to be doing quite well at its job, even on the Android phone.  This particular model even has the little pencil eraser mouse like laptops did in the ’90s. 

Obviously, this is not a ‘solution’ to the keyboard issue, as this is hardly a portable device, and would do far better as a bludgeoning weapon.  If I’m going to sit down with this much hardware to plunk out a blog entry, I will more than likely use my laptop.  Incidentally, my laptop doesn’t weigh much more than the M.  Anyway, this was just too funny not to share.  I’ll likely edit the video and add it to the text later. 

And, with the magic of editing…

I hope you enjoyed the video too. Please remind me to get some kilted pics posted tomorrow. I need to start announcing some of the fabulous prizes we’re giving away from the Evyl Robot Empyre. And, if you haven’t yet, please do donate to the cause here.

Forget Visible Light! – Let’s Talk Infrared and Ultraviolet

In this post, I explained how the light spectrum that is detectable to our eyes runs from around 400 to 700 nanometers. The sensor in your typical digital camera can detect light waves from around 200 to 1,000, but it has a hot mirror filter to block out the light waves at the extreme ends of the range. Then, in this post, I showed what happens when you remove that filter from a point-and shoot. I also told you that I ordered some ultraviolet and infrared LEDs. On my last post, Mark comments that perhaps I could use a cellphone board camera or a I2C camera, as these seem to register the infrared light in a remote control. Let’s explore that a bit.

The ultraviolet LEDs I ordered are claimed to be 395 to 400 nanometers in wavelength. Lights in this wavelength should produce very little visible light if any at all. I think the manufacturer fudged the wavelength specs just a bit, as these shine quite purple to the naked eye. I have no doubt that they are producing quite a bit of UV light though. Without the proper tools to accurately measure wavelength output, I’d guess that the range on these is more like 395nm to 405nm. When I take a test shot of a UV LED shining on my wall with my unaltered AW100, you can see a blue hot spot but the rest of the frame reflects visible light.

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The same shot with the full-spectrum Olympus comes out in a neon purple bath:

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I have a little glass horse that sits at my workbench. This is a reproduction of a design that Jennifer’s family came up with generations back. This one was cast in vaseline glass, which is a bright green, uranium filled glass that emits a bright luminescent glow under an UV light. Here’s how it looks with the visible light camera with the UV LED on it:

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And again, through the unfiltered eye of the Olympus:

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The visible light green glow is rather shocking against all of that UV light! As Matt mentioned, a digital camera can ‘see’ the light emitted from the IR LED in a remote control, but it can’t see much of it. Check out this side by side between the modified and unmodified cameras:

The infrared LEDs arrived today, and here is one shining on my wall through my stock Nikon:

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Clearly, there’s not much going on there. Near the center at the bottom of the frame, note the faint red glow of the LED itself. These are even less visible to the naked eye. Through the UV-seeing Olympus though:

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We get quite the wash of fuchsia. Just for giggles, what effect, if any will the IR light have on the vaseline glass horse? Here it is through my Nikon:

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It wasn’t completely dark, but it was dark enough in the room that the camera didn’t want to focus. But through the Olympus:

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Here is a picture of the view screens of both cameras, pointed at the horse, with the IR LED trained on it:

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Microcosm Overlord and I are going to build a dual IR/UV light array that I can tote around for some further testing instead of being stuck at the bench. I fully expect to have some fun results to share. With any luck at all, perhaps I can have the array usable in time for Phlegmfest!

A Bump in the Road

If you’ve been reading my rantings, you probably saw my initial step into full-spectrum photography. I’m really looking forward to building my own full-spectrum homebrew trail camera, but the Olympus model I modified isn’t supported by any of the board manufacturers. Of the thirty-five or so models that are supported, they list Nikon’s L10, L11, and L12. Since Jennifer and I have pretty well gone full nerd Nikon at this point, I thought that it would be fun to build a Nikon-based game camera.

I wound up purchasing a Nikon L14 on ebay for about $15 after shipping. When it came in, I took some test pics and then tore into its housing to pull the hot mirror filter. I saw a familiar rectangle of glass over the sensor, and began nudging it with my screwdriver. This one was quite a bit more secure than the last camera! It did wind up coming off, but in several pieces. Hoping that I didn’t break anything too badly, I wedged the camera all back together. It powered on and I took a few more test pictures.

Trees were green and it was not apparently picking up any extra light. Hhhmmmmm… So, I took the camera apart again. I’m not sure exactly what the piece was that I broke out of the camera, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything. Upon a second inspection of the internals, there seems to be in iridescent coating on the lenses inside the lens assembly. In other words, it looks like the lenses are self-filtered, and there’s not a filter that I can simply remove or replace. When I reassembled the camera yet again, it still functioned correctly, and Teen Bot showed interest in taking it on for his own, so I gave it to him.

I’ve been looking online at some of the other cameras listed by the control board manufacturers, and Jennifer has quite understandably requested that I attempt to learn what I can about specific models to hopefully avoid making the same mistake twice. I have found more info perusing forums and online resources, and of the thirty-fivish models listed, have found specific testimony from other human beings of about twenty of them being converted to infrared. Some of them even posted pictures! Seriously, there’s no way I could have seen this coming. Besides that, it was a $15 gamble, and Teen Bot got a nice point-and-shoot out of the deal. I’d say we’re still doing well.

Oh and, I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to get a Nikon D200 when we can afford it. I found a tutorial on a full spectrum conversion for it, and I think I’m going to take a crack at that myself. I’m feeling a little less gun-shy about modding cameras at this point. The Olympus is fun, and has produced some cool images, but it has always had a color-bleed issue which has only been exaggerated with the full-spectrum mod. Many pics aren’t showing much visible coloration, and I believe it’s a limitation of the camera itself.

E-Tool

There are standard items that I keep in the back of whatever car I have. Among these items you will find bottled water, a knife of some kind, first aid kit, emergency blankets, and some basic tools. Many of my normal friends think I’m weird because in the trunk of the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan resides one of these:

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“Why in the world do you keep a shovel in your trunk?” they ask me, in much the same way they ask, “Why on earth do you always have a knife in your pocket?” when they need something cut or “Why do you carry a flashlight with you?” when the power goes out. These seem like rhetorical questions to me. “Why” indeed…

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I’m not the only one who sees these as essential gear. When we got everyone together for COGS 2013, it was cold and drizzly. On Saturday, some of our guests asked if they could start a fire behind the firing line. Not only did I endorse such actions, I pulled my trencher out of the trunk and put it to use. And, another one was produced from another trunk. With two people running these bad boys, you can have a nice sized fire pit in no time flat. When Jennifer and I go camping, we’ll often forget some piece of gear. We have left behind our air mattress or pillows, or had to run to town to grab a case of bottled water. But, the folding shovel is always in the car. There’s far more that you can do with these things than dig fire pits though. It is pretty well accepted that the U.S. G.I. E-tool makes a great weapon in hand-to-hand combat.

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Indeed, with two sharpened edges on one side and two serrated edges on the other, not only will they handily cut through soil and hack through branches, they would be better than harsh words in a self-defense situation. Granted, if I was rushed by a dangerous animal in the woods, I’d rather drop the shovel and draw my .45, but failing that, I’d be glad for the shovel! A friend described to me how to use one of these as a stool to sit over a hole to poop in the woods. I couldn’t find a good diagram on how to work this, so I drew this crude* comic for an illustration:

e-tool poop stool

These things are compact. They will fit in the spare tire well with your spare, or in your jack storage. In a standard cab pickup, they take up virtually no space behind or under the seat. Currently, we only have the one car, but when we add a second and then a third when Teen Bot starts driving, they’ll get their own e-tools shortly after acquisition. Now, when anyone raises an eyebrow as to why I should have one of these in the trunk, my standard response is to ask them why they don’t have one in their car!

*Pun totally intended. I used to get in trouble for drawing stuff like this in school. Please pardon my crappy artwork. I know it kind of stinks. 😛

Pink Trees & Other Delights

On Friday, I shared my musings about setting up a homebrew, full-spectrum game camera. Years ago, when we had a couple of 35mm cameras and a Polaroid in the house, we did happen through a couple of extremely cheapo digital cameras. At some point in time, Jennifer decided that she’d like something nicer. We wound up ordering an Olympus Stylus 600 for her.

Stylus

This camera hasn’t been used in years, despite our best intentions. We cleared the XD card several weeks ago and found pictures from our last trip to Galveston, before it got blown away by the hurricane, just to give a little perspective. I’ve been wanting to try out a camera with no hot mirror filter, so I decided to hack into the Stylus (with Jennifer’s permission, of course). When I was a child, I was a creative yet hamfisted lad, and wound up ruining quite a few pieces of electronics in my attempts to mod them. Every time I tweak on my gear as an adult, I fear similar results. Even so, I pulled the sensor out of the Olympus:

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And, I popped the filter off the sensor. From left to right, there’s the naked sensor, the hot mirror filter on its gasket, a bracket pad, and metal frame:

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I got the camera all reassembled and confirmed that it functioned still, and took a couple of test pics:

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Alright, so the color is a little off and the cat’s eyes are glowing quite brightly. This is hardly any unusual feat of photography. Hrm. I then did some test pictures in my bedroom with a black light. For reference, here’s my bedroom wall through my Nikon, lit only with the black light:

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And then, here’s a similar frame through the modded camera:

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It certainly sees more ultraviolet light than the other camera does! It’s safe to say that it’s picking up extra-human light ranges at this point. Full-spectrum camera plus black light and UV responsive materials equals psychedelic pictures:

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As you certainly know, we’ve been having a stormy few weeks in Oklahoma, so I decided to see how the modded camera perceived our storm clouds in comparison to my Nikon. Here’s the skyline from the unmodded camera:

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And in full spectrum:

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The world goes from gray:

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To a stunning display of pink, purple, and blue:

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The real shock though, came when I took pictures of trees and other green plants.

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Are those cotton candy trees? What looks like this in visible light:

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Transforms to this when you allow for infrared capture:

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As it turns out, chlorophyll reflects a lot of infrared.

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So much so in fact, pretty much everything under the canopy is washed in its pink glow.

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Here’s one of the roses in our garden:

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And jalapeño blossoms:

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When there isn’t much visible light available,

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There’s still plenty of non-visible light to catch with the CCD sensor.

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So, will this make for a great trail camera? It looks promising. Sadly, as cool as the little Stylus 600 was when new, it’s about a $10 ebay camera now. Even the homebrew camera people don’t support this one. It seems that it was always a little finicky about focusing, and never took the best pictures. When Jennifer upgraded to her Nikon P80, it was really because the Stylus took terrible product photos. As an experiment in full spectrum photography, I’m calling this a win so far.

I have ordered a used Nikon L14 which will be the basis on my new, full spectrum game camera. I have also ordered 100 ultraviolet LEDs and 1,000 infrared LEDs. My brother and I are going to put together some light arrays. I plan on doing the hot mirror hack to the L14 when it comes in and continue my experiment using artificial UV and IR lighting in conjunction with the full-spectrum Nikon as well as the Stylus. This whole project has been so much fun and has produced such fascinating images that I’m seriously considering picking up a used DSLR, hacking it with the full spectrum mod, and getting a handful of various lens filters for different effects. I’m not in a position to buy just yet, but I have tentatively shopped a few models. Anyone out there have an old D40 or D200 with a 18-55mm lens that you’d be willing to donate to the cause? 😉 If not, I will likely start saving my pennies for one.

Camera Nerdiness

Since Jennifer and I are relatively new to hunting, we’ve gotten a lot of help from DanielS at Among the Leaves, who has been hunting for pretty much his entire life. He drove up to our property on several occasions to advise and help us reclaim the lost art that both of our families enjoyed only a couple generations ago. Daniel even loaned us one of his game cameras that he wasn’t using, a Moultrie I40. It has been in pretty constant use on the family farm in a location where the deer like to hang out.

The last time I changed out the card, the display was blank. I figured the batteries were depleted and took the camera home with me. When we checked the card, it was pretty clear that it had stopped taking pictures a few weeks earlier. Toward the end of the run of pics, there were blank files interspersed with the pictures, as if it tried to take pictures but the files didn’t save to the card properly. It seemed pretty obvious that it was batteries. I put six fresh batteries into the camera and found that the display screen was still not displaying. I could hear the camera click as if it was functioning though. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was not capturing images at all. The photo folder in the SD card was empty.

We’ve had some nasty storms lately, and I guess it was damaged in one of them. A little internet research showed that the screen is a pretty common problem with this model, which Moultrie will fix for about $40. Failure to capture images is a separate problem. Crap. Since I can get a brand new Moultrie camera delivered to my door for well under $100, this one is probably not worth fixing. Daniel was quite understanding.

Jennifer and I had recently discussed that we would like to add more cameras, but I guess we now need to work our way back up to a pair of them. In shopping the interwebtron for trail cameras, I kept seeing people referring to ‘homebrews’. My dad has spent much time on the back porch, homebrewing beer, but I didn’t have any idea what that had to do with hunting. A quick Google search dumped me into quite the rabbit hole. I have an insatiable desire to buy some $20 camera on ebay and hack it into a game camera.

Most game animal activity occurs in the dark. I have gotten a few daylight pics of deer, but nothing like the after dark activity! It seems like most of the homebrew camera guys rig theirs with factory or add on flash units, and just light up the deer when they least expect it. I can see how this would be effective, but it won’t work in my application. Since there are trespassers on the property from time to time, if they had a flash go off at them, I’m likely to have a camera stolen. Scaring the living crap out of some unsuspecting deer notwithstanding, my cameras have to be discreet because of two-legged critters. The commercial cameras take color photos during the day and infrared pictures at night with the aid of an IR LED array. I wondered how they did that.

Many trail cameras are put together in such a way that there is an articulated light filter over the sensor inside the camera. When the light sensor detects that it is bright out, the filter covers the sensor with a hot mirror that blocks out all but the visible light spectrum. When it’s dark out, the filter switches over to an infrared filter and lights up its array. What a marvel that they can use such an impressive instrument in a device that they can sell for so cheap! Well, as it turns out, all digital cameras have a sensor capable of recording light outside of our range of sight.

You see, the light spectrum that is detectable to our eyes runs from around 400 to 700 nanometers. Below 400 nm we get into Ultraviolet range before it give way to X-rays, and above 700 nm is infrared range. The sensor in your typical digital camera can detect light waves from around 200 to 1,000, but it has a hot mirror filter to block out the light waves at the top and bottom of the range.

In fact, the trick thing to do among some of the photography geeks is to have a camera shop rip out the hot mirror from your old DSLR and replace it with an IR filter when you upgrade your camera so you have a dedicated IR camera. In fact, there are some folks out there that have done similar hacks at home to cheaper cameras.

Of course, I wondered whether the sensor needed a filter at all. What would be the harm in letting it record visible light simultaneously with infrared and ultraviolet? A little more digging revealed that this is called “full spectrum” and is also practiced among photographers. It appears that when you go full-spectrum with a digital camera colors can get funky. I can live with this. If I built an unfiltered trail cam that ran an IR array at night, I’d get my day pics and my night pics, and not have an obvious flash that will scare the crap out of animals and direct meth heads to smash or steal my camera. This is a good thing even if some of the pics are a little trippy. I’ll just pretend the deer have been dropping acid.

This all brings up another good point. There are things that IR and UV are useful beyond what I’ve mentioned yet. And regardless of utility, it would just be fun to have a full-spectrum camera to tote around. I sourced some very affordable IR and UV LEDs and have conspired with my brother to make a light accessory. I believe that I’m going to build myself a full-spectrum game camera and also a full-spectrum point-and-shoot from one of the cameras we have laying around the Evyl Robot Empyre. If this is as much fun as I suspect, I’ll have updates for you later!