Tag Archives: photography

This smart camera forces you to take unique photos

Camera Restricta is a camera that locates itself via GPS and searches online for photos that have been geotagged nearby.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than trying to navigate the streets of a city or make your way through a popular attraction filled with tourists snapping pictures. Not to mention, a simple Google search will reveal that the same monuments and landmarks are often photographed multiple times.


That’s why Philipp Schmitt has developed a new type of ‘smart’ camera that determines its location via GPS and then combs through online photos that have been geotagged in the same place. If the aptly named Camera Restricta decides that too many images have been taken at your location, it retracts the shutter and blocks the viewfinder, disabling you from taking any more pictures there. Ideally, this project will inspire you to venture off from the well-beaten path and capture some unique shots.

Not only a criticism of modern-day photography, the project was designed as a censorship tool for “disobedient objects.” Camera Restricta offers feedback in two ways. The back of the device will physically display both how many pictures have been taken in a location and whether photos are “allowed.” Aside from that, the clever smartphone case translates the data into acoustic feedback that’s reminiscent of a Geiger counter. But instead of warning against radioactivity, each clicking noise represents how many photos are detected nearby. The more you hear, the less likely you’ll be able to take a picture in that ‘touristy’ spot.


“The European Parliament recently voted against a controversial proposal that threatened to restrict the photography of copyrighted buildings and sculptures from public places. The camera could be funded or subsidized by public and private sector institutions with an interest in regulating photography in certain places. It’s censorship that doesn’t happen after, but before a picture was taken,” Schmitt explains.

The camera is comprised a 3D-printed camera body that houses a smartphone and a few electronic components, all controlled by an ATTiny85 that moves the shutter. Additionally, the phone itself provides the GPS and data connection, generates the static sounds and doubles as the display revealing a ‘yes’ or ’no’ (‘nein’) when deciding to take a pic.

The phone runs a web app that queries a Node.js server that Schmitt built to browse Flickr and Panoramio photos within a 115-foot radius. Based on its findings, the app synthesizes the camera sound in real-time using the Web Audio API. If the number is above a certain threshold, a photo cell mounted in front of the screen picks up a signal and transmits it to the ATtiny85 which then retracts the shutter.


“The project is not only a piece about censorship in a policital sense, but also questions our photographic practice. With digital photography displacing film, taking pictures has essentially become free, resulting in an infinite stream of imagery,” the Maker concludes. “Camera Restricta introduces new limitations to prevent an overflow of digital imagery. As a byproduct, these limitations also bring about new sensations like the thrill of being the first or last person to photograph a certain place.”

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page, and be sure to catch it in action below!

Long exposure photos reveal invisible motions in sports

Canadian photographer Stephen Orlando has introduced a new way to visualize action sports through the use of LED lights and an [Atmel based] Arduino.


The technique reveals beautiful light trails, which are not artificially created using applications like Photopshop, and represents the actual paths of familiar objects. Orlando’s long exposure photos turn repetitive, invisible motions seen in outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, tennis, swimming and soccer into enchanted braids of light. Each sport requires the photographer to fine-tune his technique.

“Similar to streamlines of fluid flow, these images show pathlines of objects. In a single image, the viewer is able to compare different points in space and time,” Orlando tells Wired.


Orlando’s images use programmable strips of blinking LED lights that are capable of changing colors over time. A custom Arduino-based rig enables him to not only program the color and pattern of the LEDs, but accentuate the movements of whatever activity is being captured. In an exposure of 20 or 30 seconds, for instance, the kayak becomes invisible, yet the trail of light left behind as the kayakers paddle gets picked up and transformed into a vibrant light show.

Despite its revolutionary take on photography, Orlando notes that a number of traditional elements are just as imperative as well, including background, framing, and composition. “Without them, they would simply be lines without any context.”


The Waterloo-based photographer has spent a number of years analyzing and measuring fluid flow using various methods. Apparent by his impressive portfolio of work, the various images of neon light skipping across water or running across an open field are truly stunning.

“The shape of the light trails turned out to be what I was expecting. I did a lot of planning for these photos and I plotted out the expected path beforehand. The unexpected result was how visually appealing they are,” Orlando concludes.


Well, safe to say this is one bright idea! Intrigued by the photographer’s work? Feel free to browse through Orlando’s gallery here. Meanwhile, you may also enjoy some further reading on how artists are turning to the Atmel powered ‘duino to bring interactive installations to life — including a Japanese waterfront, a political debate, or even an impressive Nottingham night show.

Video: The Entropy-Arduino connection

At first glance, the connection between Arduino and entropy may be somewhat puzzling, as the latter term is most often related to the notions of order and disorder.

But that is the very term the talented Physalia team used to describe a recent video project comprising 2,000 pictures of water droplets which were mapped and subsequently animated.

“There were 320 frames printed and replaced frame by frame in the animation, and over 2,000 frames compose the final shot- this meaning that the drop you see is never the same, there are 2,000 different drops in the piece,” the Physalia crew explained in a blog post.

“In order to be able to photograph each one in exactly the right place as to be able to see a fluid fall, we created an Arduino-based system in which, after having the drop cross a laser pointer, we would have the absolute precision of when to trigger the flashes and camera to see the drop in the right position. We worked very hard to synch this mechanism to our Motion Control system, and the final piece is the result of a 3-week testing process in which we shot about 45 splashing tests with over 20000 pictures taken, before we produced the final shot.”

The team first programmed a small Arduino sketch to control flash and camera according to the blocking of the photodiode light, all in one click. As they were shooting using a macro lens, they installed a potentiometer to modify the delay between water drop and flashes without reprogramming the Arduino.

“To test the theory we shot a number of pictures with the same delay and they were all very similar. We also realized that, by getting rid of the potentiometer and any communication with the laptop, the pictures were more and more similar- like two drops of water!

“We then cleaned the code and added some ideas to make the system more trustworthy, like adding a millisecond after each 1000 microseconds to help the Arduino manage such large amounts of figures.”

Additional details about the Entropy project can be found here on the Phsyalia website.