Painting with Light 1.0: Getting Started


Long exposure photography has always interested me, as have stepper motors and their various uses though I know nothing about either of them. I came up this project to try and bring the two interests together. When finished I’m hoping to have something akin to projects like this, this and this that can draw recognisable pictures with light.


Read more after the break!

The Goal

I’ve been thinking about this project for a long time and have a lot of ideas on how I want it to expand and what it could be used for. My first aim is just to get a rough proof of concept jig together and learn the basic concepts of long exposure photograpy and stepper motors. After that I’d like to:
  • Build proper enclosure and camera holder
  • Build spacers for components to maximise possible travel distance
  • Source a good long exposure camera (mine is only 15 seconds)
  • Way to draw and upload gcode (using manual coords at the moment)
  • Implement RGB LEDS
  • Implement different size LEDs (for different sized lines).

Getting Started

So far I’ve put together a very rough jig using:
  • 1x Arduino Uno
  • 2x EasyDriver boards
  • 2x Steppers with 6cm sliders
  • Various breadboards, jumpers, pots and LEDs

To drive the motors I’m using the AccelStepper library with examples from here and here. Once further into the project and code is tidied up I’ll start posting my actual code.

The Results

I started taking photos with 10 second exposure and got the following results

IMG_2119 IMG_2123 Not bad, but can spot some problems here.
  • Light pollution. In both of the photos it was pitch black when I took the photo. Even after adding a pot the LED is still way to bright and is throwing light in all directions. I’ll buy some nail polish and paint the bottom/sides of the LED to see if that helps.
  • The LED itself might be too big. The sliders only have less than 6cm travel which means the LED takes up too much of that space… I need a smaller LED.

Next Steps

Still, I’m pretty darn pleased since it works surprisingly well for 2 hours work! I’ve been wanting to do this for months and I’m really happy to finally be making progress. Next up I’ll be:
  • Fixing light pollution, get a smaller LED.
  • Building proper coord system and a way to turn LED on/off. At the moment the rails are just moving backwards/forwards randomly and the LED is fixed on.
  • Building some spacers so rails have more travel. At the moment the rails run into each other and that massive pcb with the LED decreases travel for that rail too.

Expect more updates soon, will be working on this plenty more soon! Also, you can follow the project on Hackaday Projects

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