Trigger Happy

Flickr user Pianoman finds himself in an usually suspenseful situation with an Arduino project –

So I built this little project for a friend. The idea is to take photos of a shuttle launch at down at Cape Canaveral. He has been doing this for a long time now… the routine goes like this: Accredited photographers are admitted to dedicated sites very close to the launch pad a day or two before the launch. But you have to leave your cameras there, armed and ready to start shooting on their own when the launch happens. And you can’t use a clock, because the actual launch time gets moved around all the time….

He previously used a simple box that would trigger the cameras based on a microphone picking up the roar from the shuttle engines. But that way you loose a few seconds, the time it takes the sound to travel.

So our new idea was to use seismic sensors (geophones) to pick up the vibration and trigger the cameras sooner and hopefully more reliably!


My little system here (based on the extremely cool Arduino microcontroller) picks up the signal from the geophone, which you just stick into the ground, and amplifies it. When the signal reaches a certain threshold, two cameras (a Nikon and a Hasselblad) will be triggered to shoot photos for as long as the rumbling goes on… or until they’ve shot their entire roll of film, whichever happens first.

The problem is that there was no way to calibrate the system… we don’t know how strong the seismic signal will be. That means, our setup could either: do nothing… or shoot 36 images of the shuttle sitting on its pad, because an alligator was walking by (yes, they do that)…. *keeping my fingers crossed*

. . . and? – and!? Our little geophone-duino is due back by now – gotta find out how this turned out! Guess we’ll have to wait for that film to be developed first – Trigger happy

Nightsky Crop
HOW TO – Take photos of the Space Shuttle and Space Station