Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Photography, redux.

Last month I visited a very special bookshop in Melbourne called Metropolis. It was posited as "Melbourne's answer to Kinokunia (which it's not), but what it lacks in size and diversity it more than makes up for in totally fastidious depth on topics such as Architecture, Movies, Music, Politics, Philosophy, and well.. Photography; you know, all the good stuff.

Anyhow, it was there I found a book called The Photographers Playbook (which doesn't show on their search..) and while haven't even opened it yet(!) the reason I picked it up is what I want to talk about today. 

Why talk about a book I haven't read? Because right now it's still perfect in my mind. That idea of perfection is not yet soiled by a messy grounding in reality.  Or perhaps more importantly, it's value right now is in what it represents rather that what it actually is.  It is, as yet, a gateway device to unlock that which has become shrouded to me. WTF? Let me explain..

Like most people photography has been a constantly available medium since forever.  And while i phased through this camera or that, I've so far only taken it seriously twice.  Once when we lived in Japan and for awhile afterwards, and once again a few years later when I discovered film photography. 

During those serious phases (especially the latter), I gathered a horrendous amount of stuff.  No doubt stuff is required when operating a darkroom, but it was far more than just that.  I gathered an amount of detritus hoping that it might be useful, but ultimately it began to drag me down.  Much of this detritus was mental.

Let me now expose now why I stopped taking photography seriously.
  1. I'd read and spoke of and saw so much about photography as an art-form that took me further away from simply being with a camera.
  2. The advent of the internet and smartphones and whatnot meant I was overwhelmed with imagery and the art-form felt sullied.  I'd become puritanical and elitist.
  3. I'd become so focused on this purity that almost without exception, I couldn't find in the art of others that which I felt the need to see, somewhere.
  4. I'd somehow taken ownership of photography such that i felt denigration of the art-form was somehow reflecting on my own art. 
  5. Meanwhile while habitually looking in all the wrong places I still strove to achieve external validation as a photographer.
  6. And when I finally sold my first photograph I almost immediately stopped.
  7. And for all the thinking and talk of it, those photos I did love I rarely celebrated by displaying them in my home; they became .. relics.
  8. I'd become so bogged down in meta, equipment and decision fatigue that I came simply take no camera and no photos at all.
  9. And thusly through entropy and laziness I lost much of what I had learned of technique.
It occurs to me now that I still take photography seriously, but I'd just stopped taking serious photos.  Well here's what I've learned of myself since then:

  1. Photography meta is extremely important, but only the only meta i can afford to care about is my meta.
  2. Even well executed photography represents a pale imitation of reality.  A fragmentary glimpse not on the past, but on the mind of the photographer at that moment.  So In that sense I am a good photographer if I accurately represent my own intent.
  3. What is my state of mind?  Where is my heart at?  Does this image express that?  The worst of all things is to take a photograph without intent; it is emotionally void, a negative space, a cultural anathema.
  4. Thusly as we are to survive as emotional creatures, photography cannot exist purely on the new shiny nor the freakish happenstance; it must be rooted in an immediate emotional reality.  Even if that's not an easy place to show.  They must exude gravity, but that doesn't mean they're to be heavy.
  5. Therefore, photography to me needs an emotional maturity and for me that exists in two places only; in the faces of people, and in nature.
So then in closing, what I hope from this book:
  1. How to find constraint and to ensure that constraint drives creativity. 
  2. To eschew trickery and banal; each image carries an emotional weight. 
  3. To find a freedom and a lightness within, a brevity.
  4. And to ultimately express myself in the hope of bringing us all closer.
If for no other reason than to mark the passage of time, it's my intent to diarize my progress through this book.  I'll begin a new post with the assignment and my thoughts on it both before and afterwards.  There are 307 of them in the book, so let us both see how far i get .. ;)

Monday, October 28, 2019

planet earth, time, mind

planet earth, time, mind 
their infinite profound complexity
neatly summarized in words

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Wltoys 12428b (part 25: Fixing slop in steering)

Setting less terrible toe angles seemed a bit pointless when the wheels kind just point wherever they want anyhow.  So that's the next order of business.

I needed a very thin shim, and after looking at the cost of stock at the hobby shop, i very carefully cut down an aluminum can.  I cut this little strip with a steel straight edge and 4 or 5 passes with a Stanley knife. 

0.16mm thick and ~1.89mm high.
Curiously, a can is about 0.25mm thick at the bottom and 0.12mm thick at the top.  So not only is it free, but we can make shims of different thicknesses!

The idea was to remove the play in this part of the steering mechanism.  I'm hoping a picture tells a thousand words, because i'm not sure i can explain it..

Craft knife points to the shim being inserted from the right.
It took a little fettling to get it to fit, and in the end instead of pushing the shim in, i ended up holding it in place with long nose pliers and moving the normally stationary part onto it (if that makes any sense).  

When it was inserted, I tightly folded the ends over so hopefully it stays in place.

Wltoys 12428b (part 24: Fixing front toe out)

From standard these cars come with a toe out that's quite visible.  When i measured it (I am not an engineer..) it seems about three degrees each side (with the standard fixed, equal length 61mm steering arms).  I did this by:
  1. Placing the car on a piece of paper, aligning it perpendicular.
  2. Place a straight edge along the front wheels, draw a line (the outside ones)
  3. Then rule progressive parallel lines towards the centre until they cross.
  4. At the crossing point, use a protractor to measure the angle.
  5. Halve that number to indicate the toe out for each wheel.
Such science!
Then we need to make up some adjustable steering arms so we can alter the toe.

Attempt 1: I cut the heads off some random bolts and screwed in the spare piston ends from the CVA shocks.  This would have worked, however, they're non adjustable.  Worse, I cut down the only bolts I had, and they were too short.. I really could have gone and got some more, cut them to the exact length.

Attempt 2: Buy some adjustable steering arms.  Ended up getting the Tamiya 54539 Full Turnbuckle Set. I fitted them in the following combination to yield an adjustable arm of nominal length 61mm:

Top: The new parts  Below: The standard 61mm arm.
Long story short, after a bit of mucking around I was able to produce 3 degrees toe in with equal length steering arms of 60.60mm.  That's about as good as I am willing to attempt right now, mainly because there will be wild variations in actual steering because of the play in the plastic steering mechanism.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Wltoys 12428b (part 23: RWD with locked rear diff)

So the rear wheel drive conversion has been very interesting.  Not only has it allowed me to isolate and then optimise the rear end, it's unlocked an entirely different vehicle from the AWD one.

However, one thing was immediately obvious, rear wheel traction was sorely lacking.  Hence, locking the rear diff with BlueTac :)

I kept another diff open, hence labeling.

I did this rather hastily and didn't bother taking any in-progress pictures.  However the process is pretty straight forward:
  1. Remove the wheels and rear differential cover etc.
  2. Remove the differential and axle assembly.
  3. Carefully open the differential by removing the 4 screws.
  4. Carefully note the arrangement of the spider gears.
  5. Carefully remove the spider gears onto a sheet of white paper.
  6. De-grease and clean the spider gears and inside their housing.
  7. Take a wad of BlueTac and shove it into the housing..
  8. Reinstall the spider gears, embedding them in the BlueTac.
  9. Shove more BlueTac on top of the spider gears.  Aim to fill it with only the smallest amount coming out of the screw holes upon re-assembly.
  10. Reassemble the differential, carefully tightening screws.  Don't force it.  If you have not enough then the spider gears will still move.  Too much and it won't go back together properly.  
  11. ..fettle until it works ;)
  12. Reinstall in the reverse order of disassembly.

Road Test:

OMFG.  The thing is a beast. Totally different animal..
  1. It feels more agile, nimble, responsive.  And powerful.
  2. Will readily lift a front wheel under acceleration.
  3. Brake application causes rear wheel lock, done carelessly induces spinout.
  4. Turning circle doesn't seem to be badly impacted.
  5. Can now easily do doughnuts.. ;)

Offroad Test:

Hmmmm... something isn't quite right.  It's nearly uncontrollable on full throttle.. I think it's torque steer?

  1. Whenever the car is at full throttle it will steer to the right (clockwise).
  2. From a standing start it will just do a doughnut, always the same direction.
  3. Trim the steering to the left, under full throttle it will travel straight, and then off throttle will travel to the left.  So i don't think a steering or even a toe issue.
  4. It only appeared to happen when the diff was locked.  RWD with open diff didn't have this issue.
Some interesting information.  Fixes? I'll try adjusting the front toe, that needs doing already.  Failing that I don't mind going back to AWD.  I feel like the rear is solid now which is how this all started in the first place.. ;)

UPDATE 1: Fixed the issues with toe out and steering play, but even on tarmac it still very readily wants to steer to the right.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Wltoys 12428b (part 22: rear wheel drive conversion)

I was getting some quite serious While i was doing some maintenance

So I was halfway through installing a spare front diff from the parts car when i decided I'd had enough of front diffs and their noise and friction and various wear issues, so I decided on a whim just to pull it out, and the front drive shafts as well:

Front diff and drive shafts notable in their absence.

So although it's dark out, i went up and drove it on the road.  On a LiIon battery in storage mode (~7.4v) and with throttle trim turned right up, the thing absolutely flies.  It's a completely different car!  I'm slightly in awe.

  1. It accelerates like a demon, especially on the road (traction)
  2. It's relatively very quiet and the motor noise is much more evident.
  3. It doesn't suffer from power on under-steer.
  1. It's really fast.. ;) and i hit the curb more than once :/
  2. The brakes only work on the rear wheels..
  3. Toe out factory front wheel alignment causes tracking issues.
  4. More power through the rear wheels induces wheelspin
  5. The open rear diff servers to accentuate this issue.
  6. The tail-shaft CV joint angles could be improved (noisy).
I do have even more front diffs on order, but i don't know what to do now!

UPDATE: I took it up the hill to play on the dirt and the major limiting factor regarding acceleration is the open rear diff.  You can hear it variously spin up one wheel or the other, and it won't power slide as it lifts the inside wheel and just spins it.

I fixed the CV joint issue by lowering the rear ride height a bit.  Fwiw; for ease of maintenance etc when on the bench I have the car in a cradle (you can see one of the dowels in the above picture).  This means that there is no weight on the wheels and the extra droop causes the CV noise issue.

Possible mods, lock the rear diff and fit adjustable steering arms.

Democracy and freedom of information (Snowden)

"..in a democracy, ultimately, the government is supposed to derive its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. But that consent is only meaningful if it’s informed. If we’re denied the basic facts about just the broadest outlines of the powers and policies that the government is perpetuating both in our name and that they’re then using against us in some cases, we do not control government, rather government controls us..." - Edward Snoden

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Wltoys 12428b (part 21: rear suspension geometry changes)

While i was very happy with the CVA shock upgrades, the rear mounting (install ball mounts from standard shocks and install i) left a little to be desired, in that:
  1. Snugging up the top screw placed sideways pressure on the shock top, and i could see whiteness (plastic fatigue) where the shock top joins the cap.
  2. The spring required all the spacers I had and even then the ride height could have been higher.  Upon removal, the spring had compressed.
  3. The shock top mount was non-adjustable.
So, i decided to make up new rear top shock mounts.  Unfortunately, I'm still rather devoid of any actual trained understanding of suspension, but I worked on the following approaches:
  1. Suspension components require compliance (movement) in use.
  2. But mounting points themselves (this part) should be solid.
  3. Parts should not be under any static fatigue when installed.
  4. Parts should not be exposed to any avoidable fatigue in use.
  5. The part should allow adjustment for final positioning and tuning.
  6. Anchor points labelled consistently between designs; A and B (see pics)
  7. Incorporate only parts from the 50519 and 50520 kits, specifically use the "hex ball head connector" (ala tamiya 53968)
  8. For maximum rebound effect, the shock should be as vertical as possible.
  9. The shock should be allowed to always retain it's full travel and not be overly compressed when variously adjusted.
  10. The final assembly should not foul the chassis and/or body in any respect.
  11. Where all the above are satisfied, body roll should be decreased by lowering the center of gravity by not using overly stiff springs or via an equivalent adjustment.
So, that setup, I variously started with some drawings, and then mocked up in cardboard, test fit, then onto test parts (1.6mm aluminum sheet).  The process involved several designs:

Designs are numbered, left to right, top to bottom.
V1 through v5: These were produced on a principle of three anchor points being good and strong (A, B and the 3rd not labelled but it's visible in the part marked v4).  The idea here was to have the suspension mount to one of the line of numbered holes along the edge.  This design was abandoned because ultimately the angle precluded use of the hex ball head connector if mounted directly on the part (a stand off of some sort would have worked)

V6 through 9: Worked on the idea that i needed to be actually able to use the hex ball head connector, so it incorporated proper clearance from the start.  It also reduced the number of mounting points down to two, given that 3 was overkill here.  Adjustment in this design was incorporated by removing the mounting bolt A and rotating the part.  This in turn moved the shock top through an arc.  The precise arc being difficult to determine, hence the incorporation of a separate arm used for positioning (v8), then finally built up in aluminum.  This design was abandoned because making the adjustment was fiddly, and the optimum angle was hard to find.. i felt like i needed more science and the fun factor was waning..

and finally V10: Back to basics.  Two solid chassis mounts (A and B), a single non adjustable mount for the hex ball head connector in a good average position which didn't require spacers and allowed the shock its full travel.  The whole assembly installed using long bolts and using the brass stand off pieces (two of which are missing from this picture):

Two brackets machined together, then one reversed for install.
Finally, installed it all into the car.  In this picture it's clear how the brass standoff tubes have been used to give clearance of the bracket from the chassis, and to move the shock into a more vertical position:

The final part as installed on the car.

Verdict: On the road it feels pretty much the same as before :) but I'm happy that the shock top won't fatigue early, and also that I admire my handwork through the quarter window behind the drivers seat :)

Saturday, September 07, 2019

"Te ka nohi ki te ka nohi" (Dealing with it eye to eye)

Sometimes I feel like we white people know nothing of real value.

And just when we think we've got what we really want, we realize we lost what we already had.