Social Consciousness

Social Consciousness

In early January 2008, I took this photo of the sculpture titled "Social Consciousness" by Jacob Epstein (1954). It's located at the back entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many times I have seen this sculpture in shadow so the full impact of the piece did not strike me until I photographed it on a clear day in late afternoon approaching the "golden hour".

Recently I went back to the raw photo file and with Lightroom and Photoshop, did some post-processing work on it. To make the sculpture photo stronger and really see the piece with all its strength and emotion, I removed the background clutter. Photography is a subtractive art form.

For more information about the sculpture see

Not everyone likes this sculpture

Processing Android Code Commands NX500

I wrote some experimental Processing code as an Android app (for Samsung Galaxy S6 phone) to see if synchronized shutter release could be achieved using Telnet into twin Samsung NX500 cameras modified with the  NX-KS2 hack.

Unfortunately no, the system delays do not allow synchronization within 1/100 second. I'll have to stick with wired controllers for shutter release. There may be a way using Broadcast messages if I can write a daemon for the NX500 to trigger the shutter when it receives a message.

This code may be a helpful starting point for other purposes when accessing the camera with Telnet. You can get the code on Github at

### [2016/10/15 10:40:32] PROCESS @ TcpClient ### starting new TcpClient
### [2016/10/15 10:40:32] PROCESS @ TcpClient ### starting new TcpClient
2: [root@drime5 ~]#
1: [root@drime5 ~]#
2: [root@drime5 ~]# st app nx capture single
1: [root@drime5 ~]# st app nx capture single
2: [root@drime5 ~]#
1: [root@drime5 ~]#
1: [root@drime5 ~]# st app nx capture single
2: [root@drime5 ~]# st app nx capture single
1: [root@drime5 ~]#
2: [root@drime5 ~]#

3D Camera Rig With Twin Samsung NX500

Side view, 3D Camera Rig with Twin Samsung NX500

It's a 3D photographers lament that no major camera manufacturer sells a quality stereo 3D camera. Apparently the market for these cameras is not big enough to support development.  All the consumer's money for cameras is going into mobile phones, the consumers's computer choice of today.

If you want to take stereo photos, you have to build your own 3D camera. Manufacturers do not seem to even design cameras with the idea of pairing them for 3D imaging. With Virtual Reality becoming popular there may be more incentive to design for multiple cameras. We will see.

With my desire for better quality images from the camera, I decided to build a new rig. My latest 3D Twin Camera Rig uses the Samsung NX500 camera. Unfortunately Samsung discontinued its camera line, but due to this unfortunate decision, the price was more affordable (for a while) given the features the camera provides. But if this camera ever becomes more popular, due to its scarcity, I think the price may actually go up. Read below about camera mods that may affect this trend.

The NX500 is a smaller version of Samsung's top NX1 camera that uses the same APS-C sensor. It's an excellent camera that meets most of the guidelines I set for deciding which camera to buy to upgrade from my Olympus E-PM2 twin 3D rig. It's not a perfect 3D rig, but the photo quality of the NX500 is so much better than the Olympus E-PM2 camera that I am using now. I have to abandon the M4/3 mirrorless cameras for the better image quality of larger APS-C sensors available with the NX500. The only reason the NX500 is not ideal is that Samsung chose to put the shutter release port on the side where you would join the cameras in a Z-bar configuration to get the smallest possible inter-axial distance in landscape orientation. This camera design shortcoming makes it necessary to build special right angle USB plugs connected to shutter release cables to minimize the camera separation (a future project). Another possibility is to use WiFi remote shutter triggers, so wired cabling issues go away, but that is a future project.

After buying the cameras I discovered Samsung had open sourced the software. And there is an active group of enthusiasts - NXKS2, who have extended the features of the camera. For more information see the facebook page
and to download the latest mod use:

Now with the NX500 mods I can use a number of features not originally available, such as truly silent shutter, remote control, focus stacking, etc. Also I can use FTP (file transfer protocol) into the camera's FTP server using WiFi and my local network. The FTP is especially nice to download photos without taking the cameras off the 3D rig support, which is cumbersome with my rig support. And there is also Telnet protocol to experiment with the camera features with a terminal. There is more technical detail about the modifications (may not be up to date) at:

Wow! What a bonus to have all these unexpected camera features. This is a great camera system for hacking! What a delight for a photographer/developer like me. Thanks Guys!

My intent is to use the NX500 rig for studio projects with off camera strobe flashes (portrait orientation) and continue to use my E-PM2 rig for natural light events and touring (landscape orientation). With the NX500 kit lens, 16 mm - 50 mm zoom, the 35 mm equivalent is 24 to 75 mm, versus my E-PM2 14 mm fixed lens (28 mm equivalent). With the E-PM2 I always shoot raw and post process with Lightroom to get the best possible image. It's a necessity, especially to eliminate noise and best match the photo exposure and color of the cameras. With the NX500 it appears I do not need to use Lightroom as much although it can handle Samsung raw files.

With the NX500 cameras mounted in portrait mode, the inter-axial camera lens distance is 80 mm. This distance is fixed in the support I built. The support is made from two 3/4 inch wide sandwiched aluminum channels and a sanding handle. The camera shutter trigger uses a common diode OR circuit and the flash trigger was borrowed from the E-PM2 rig. It uses a 3 volt Arduino microcomputer to detect and sync the flash triggers into a PocketWizard wireless flash trigger. I'll probably be making refinements to the cabling, controllers, and building a landscape mode 3D printed camera support in the future. I think with a Z-bar configuration for a landscape orientation,  I may achieve an inter-axial lens distance of 95 mm.

The minimum inter-axial camera lens distance for my E-PM2 rig is 95 mm. This distance can be increased to 170 mm for hyper-stereo photos and has worked well for more distant subjects. But for studio projects the subject distance is usually closer and I use the portrait orientation often, that's the rationale for mounting the NX500 in portrait orientation. For comparison, note that the FujiFilm W3 3D camera has a fixed interaxial distance of 75 mm versus 80 mm for the NX500 rig.

I find the fastest usable camera synchronization shutter speed is 1/100 sec for the NX500 and 1/125 for the Olympus E-PM2. Any faster than these speeds will often cause one the cameras to miss the flash. To photograph subjects moving faster than 1/100 will capture, I resort to lower power portable strobes, 1/8 power, to get a short flash duration (.5 millisecond) and thus capture moving subjects in very low ambient light. However, there are full high power studio strobes with very short flash duration times, but I don't own these expensive strobes. I have shot 3D in a professional studio with these flash units and the results were super.

Photographer's view, 3D Camera Rig with Twin Samsung NX500

Front view, 3D Camera Rig with Twin Samsung NX500

Here are two example off camera flash stereo photos from NX500 JPG files aligned and cropped with Stereo Photo Maker (not resized). Both photos were underexposed and fixed with Image Viewer auto adjust

The first photo was shot at ISO 100, F11, 1/100, 16 mm.

The second photo was shot at ISO 100, F11, 1/125, 16 mm.

3D 4K Display Test Pattern

3D 4K Display Test Pattern

I'm attempting to modify my 3D/VR Stereo Photo Viewer app to work with 4K display phones, like the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. I needed a 3D 4K test pattern to confirm the app works. So I did a Web search for 4K display test images and found some at:


These were developed by Daniel Cardenas under a Creative Commons license with Open source attribution required:

I made the above test pattern as a 3D parallel image, PNG file type, for the 3D/VR viewer app.

The same Creative Commons license applies to my image modification.

Candy Cane Ghost for Halloween

Screenshot Finger Drawing
My 101st blog post. Yea!
Here's a screenshot from an experimental paint Android app I am writing. I paint the candy image by dragging my finger across a Samsung Galaxy S6 screen,

Autostereogram 3D Art

Recently I wrote Processing/Java code to construct and experiment with wallpaper styled autostereograms, like the above photo. These are images that appear to be normal 2D, but when you converge your eyes beyond the photo your mind will interpret the image as 3D. You can do this by starting with your eyes close to the image, with everything blurred, and then slowly back off until the pattern begins to float above the background. You can see examples of autostereograms in popular Magic Eye books that present 3D visual puzzles.

In the first photo above, I experimented with creating a wallpaper pattern that alternates left and right eye cutouts of model Mary Kate from a recent photo shoot. By combining the left and right images together in the wallpaper format I am able to see half of the pattern images as a true floating 3D image and the others as 2D pattern images floating above the background. For a good viewing experience, try to view the photo on a 15 inch diagonal screen display. Viewing on a small 6 inch smartphone display does not produce the best effect.

With the above photo you view with the wall-eyed viewing technique. There is another viewing technique named cross-eye. Here are the same cutout photos in right-left order for cross-eyed viewing. Unfortunately I have not yet trained my eyes to view this kind of 3D formatted photo.

Here is the stereo photo in left-right order, so I can see it using a stereoscope and better yet with my 3D/VR Stereo Photo Viewer Android app.

Here are some other wallpaper autostereograms I made where the images float above the background:

All of the images above were constructed from photos I shot and then edited with Lightroom and Photoshop, aligned with Stereo Photo Maker, and finally formatted with the custom Processing code I wrote.

Selecting a Camera for a 3D Twin Camera Rig

UPDATED: 2016-10-11

What features should you look for when selecting a camera to make a 3D twin camera rig? 

I'm asking the question so I can have a checklist for upgrading my current 3D twin camera rig, pictured above, that is more than 3 1/2 years old. It uses two Olympus E-PM2 cameras. The checklist is based on my personal experiences with three home-made twin camera rigs I built and used so far. The other two rigs used Nikon D-80 (purchased 2007) and Canon PowerShot SD800  (purchased 2006, point and shoot) cameras. I bought the Olympus cameras in 2013. Usually I buy the second camera used to lower the cost.

Here are ten features I think you need in a camera to build a twin camera stereo 3D rig:
  1. Live view 
    1. It's too cumbersome to use a viewfinder to compose your shot when using twin cameras.
    2. Capture the "moment" faster because you can see both eye views at the same time when composing a shot.
  2. Touch screen focus point selection (without releasing the shutter)
    1.  Offset twin cameras will not focus on the same subject in your shot, so you need a way to quickly set the same subject focus point for both cameras.
    2. Touching the screen should not release the shutter, the camera menu should have the option to not take the photo when you touch the screen.
  3. Lens not in the center of the camera
    1. Look for lens mount close to one side of the camera
    2. This lens offset makes it possible to give you the smallest inter-axial separation possible for close subjects when one camera is upside down using a Z-bar mount.
  4. Small and lightweight camera
    1. You will carry the rig all day, therefore lighter is better.
    2.  Small cameras usually provide smaller inter-axial separation too.
  5. Interchangeable lenses
    1. You can use a prime lens and not worry if each camera built-in lens has the same zoom setting
    2. Change lens to suit scene and subject
    3. Wide angle lens provide more depth of field than telephoto lenses
  6. Remote focus and shutter trigger connection
    1. Wired
      1. Input remote trigger connector should be on side opposite where two cameras are joined together for the smallest possible inter-axial camera separation.
      2. Use a simple direct wire OR diode circuit to release the shutter without any delays, when the camera is already focused. Diodes isolate the shutter release circuits in each camera. See
    2. Bluetooth wireless shutter/focus release, if available, allowing you to use two selfie remote Bluetooth triggers wired together.
    3. Optical IR focus/shutter release remote control (Nikon)
    4. WiFi remote focus/shutter trigger control of multiple cameras.
  7. Flash shoe 
    1. Must be able to use off camera flash, no compromises here.
    2. Must be able to select 1st curtain flash trigger for use with an external circuit controller, that allows you to synchronize flash triggers from each camera and use an off camera flash.
  8. One camera may have to be mounted upside down using a Z-bar mount and support
    1. Live view must appear upside, when the camera is upside down.
    2. Menu setting displays you have to make while setting the camera should not appear upside down.
  9. JPEG and Raw photo files
    1. Need Raw files for post processing to adjust left and right camera file exposure and color differences
    2. Post processing produces better photos many times especially to fix noise issues from high ISO settings
  10. Camera with both manual settings and fully automatic settings
    1. Olympus iAuto feature is very helpful when shooting events with many changing brightness levels. Look for a camera with intelligent auto settings.
    2. For some scenes you don't have time to change any camera settings.
    3. Other times you want manual settings for full control, such as a studio setting.
    4. When the light source is off to the side, one of the images will be under exposed when using automatic settings and will need post processing.
My current 3D rig with twin Olympus E-PM2 does everything except 6.2, 6.3, and 8.2. The flash unit in the photo below is about 10 inches above the cameras and is centered for balance. Instead of the flash unit I usually use a PocketWizard wireless controller to trigger off camera strobes.