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Project 365, Day 35: DIY High-Speed Flash

Today, instead of going out birding as I'd originally planned, I decided to stay in and build my own high-speed flash unit (with this kit). I knew it would push me a bit out of my comfort zone, in terms of DIY. Not only would I have to solder (which is no biggie; I've done a lot of work with stained glass, which involves a lot of soldering; this is the first time I've done any electrical wiring, though), but more than that, I would have to use a drill (and power tools scare me. Seriously. Almost to the point of a phobia). Still, I wanted this flash unit, and I wanted to build it without any help.

So, that's what I did.

Although the directions looked daunting on paper, actually it was a lot easier than I feared it would be. First, I disassembled the disposable camera included with the kit. Strange but true, it's the flash from this camera that would become my new high-speed unit. (Although the kit can be connected to dedicated flash units. But that wouldn't require any DIY. How boring). If you've ever wondered what it looks like inside a disposable camera, wonder no more. That's the subject of my official Project 365 photo for today *points up*. That photo shows the lens and shutter, which were both removed and discarded.

Once I'd removed the camera case (and before the picture above was taken), I got to have some fun discharging the flash capacitor, to make sure that it wasn't charged up when I actually started playing with the wiring. (It was charged; and made a very loud and satisfying electrical POP when I shorted the leads together. W00t)!

Now came the scary part. I had to drill a 5/32-inch hole in the back of the camera case. I was terrified that I was going to kill myself (maybe lose control of the drill, which would then go crazy and drill right into my brain through an eye socket or something, in spite of the fact that I was wearing safety glasses). Fortunately, nothing horrible happened. It was kind of boring, actually. It did take longer to drill through the plastic than I'd expected, but other than that . . . boring. :D (Sorry, no photos of me drilling because I was, you know, drilling).

Next, I soldered the wires onto the connector jack, which was then installed in the newly-drilled hole in the back:

2.5 mm Connector Jack

The final step: soldering the other ends of those wires in the proper places on the camera itself. Really, I needn't have worried; it was pretty simple:

New wires in place

All that was left to do then was to reinstall the camera battery, and snap the case shut again. Voila! High-speed flash unit:

High Speed Flash

Of course, I immediately wanted to test it out, to make sure that I'd actually soldered all the wires into the right places. So, I got myself set up to take some high speed shots. I plugged the disposable camera into the flash controller, attached the microphone, blew up the balloon included with the kit.

Ready for High Speed

(Yeah, I'm taking the pictures in my downstairs bathroom. No windows, so it's the easiest room in the house to make completely dark. Actually, that's not true. The upstairs bathroom is the easiest room in the house to make completely dark, but that would have involved hauling my tripod upstairs).

The big question: DID IT WORK?

Bwahahahahaha! For that, you'll have to tune in again tomorrow! (I've already posted my Project 365 photo for today, after all). Bwahahahahahaha!



Okay, so really? The answer is yes! It works. I am very impressed with my m4d electronic-wiring skillz. (Even though, really, it involved only four beads of solder). :D BUT . . . unfortunately, I misjudged how long it would take me to push the shutter on my SLR, and then reach across and pop the balloon, so I set the shutter speed for too short a time, and it closed before the balloon popped. And, of course, even though I have a nine-year-old son whose dream is to go to Clown School, I didn't have even one more balloon in the house. So, no photos today . . . but you can bet I'll be buying balloons later today and doing a bunch of experimental photos over the next few days. Not only can the unit be triggered by sound - the popping of the balloon - but also by motion, so I can try and get some interesting shots that way, too.

Since I decided to post one of these photos as my 365 today, I went back and edited my eariler entry to add the shot of Connor and his crazy hair. So, if you missed that, you might want to go back and have a look. :)

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