Photobooks-The Creation of

An important step

Just like heading home and processing your images after a days shoot, creating a photobook at some point is a very important step to being a better photographer. I have spoken before about the importance of processing your images. This self critique phase greatly helps us become better photographers. This image was good but I had to brighten the exposure half a stop, nice composition but the horizon wasn’t straight etc. We fix in post processing but remember to get it right in camera next time around.

Photobook phase

With books we assemble a number of images and see them at the same time/space, possibly gathered from across a broad time frame, maybe the same subject matter but from different locations etc. When we see these together we notice common traits, trends, persistent problems or even notice how we have matured and refined our skills. Whilst creating my first landscape collection I personally noticed the difference in how I process clouds for example. How certain locations lead me to a lighter blue hue whilst others a deeper warmer gold when processed. You notice this when you try to put them on the same page.

How to make Photobooks – Open source

Really a series of notes for myself on workflow which you may find of interest. Hopefully I will learn better ways as I go and will thus update this in time.

I use Darktable (DT) and at the time of writing 2.4 stable has just been released. Thanks so much guys this is an awesome bit of software. I would not be doing any of this if it wasn’t for the free flavour of such software and the amazing “cheapness” of equipment nowadays. You people have elevated those of us not so financially fortuitous to a position where we too can enjoy creativity.

Tags tags and more tags

Tag everything, right from the get go. So you have a nice image of rolling waves, against a sunset vista. Basic tags come to mind, sunset, waves, sea, beach. Think more, landscape, seascape, water. You never know what you might be searching for so the more tags the merrier. Photobooks help you out here, forces you to allocate more tags. As you sort images which may or may not fit in the current collection you are making, it does not stop you from you tagging as you go. This will help future searches. Yes at the moment of image transfer from camera to storage its time consuming. But it helps you think about your image if nothing else.

Photobook and printers

My initial thought here was to create a PDF, then send that off to a printers. Problem is the “cheap” (quality is excellent nowadays) printers aimed at the DIY amateur/enthusiast don’t seem to want to accept PDFs. Well not here anyway. I can list 6 Australian companies that provide pretty good free layout software but don’t support PDF to book printing. This means to reprint, you have to use their app again. If you decide to do a bulk run you have to either use that basic setup or start from scratch. There are printing companies, aimed more at the commercial or DIY publishers market that accept PDFs but the breakpoint money wise is 50 off or so, as they require setup fees.

Also creating a book layout is a lot of work with lots of traps, edge bleed margins and spine and sizing etc. All taken care of with the company layout software. Things you have to work out on your own if going the PDF way. PDF is the way to go, more professional, more control  and access to creativity etc but with that comes a much bigger learning curve.

Scribus perhpas the way

Im still looking at this area. Some use Scribus. An open source desktop publisher. There are writeups on how to get started with these photobook templates.

It creates PDFs, you have to create the layout, workout the margins etc and of course requires sending to a publisher rather than a “hobbies” printers.

The easier shorter path

For these reasons the easier or shorter path, the get your feet wet fast would be the many simpler hobby type printers. They are geared up to quickly get your image onto a cup, tshirt or book at good quality and good prices.

Falling at the first hurdle linux

Problem is not many offer Linux friendly software and I could not get the ones I tried, to install under WineHQ. I also had trouble getting some of the online layout apps to work( EDIT: Problem is adobe flash plugins and Firefox). So for those in a similar boat lets sail to a solution.
Some luck today, Installed chrome and managed to get vistaprint (VP)online software to work. Firefox was balking at the, required, Adobe flash plugin install by the looks of it. Will revisit this in time. Chrome simply asked to install the plugin auto downloaded the apt, restarted and away we went.

My Workflow

My workflow worked pretty well. (two monitors, left DT, right VP layout software(ie chrome))

I created an export preset in DT for hi res and into specific folder.
On average this creates a 5-8meg file at A4 size, about right for my target book.
Made sure there was a style to remove watermarks etc.
Export from DT to photobook folder,
import to layout software,
place on page.

Tags revisited

Using the various collect images rules I sorted on specific tags in DT. Selected the image, checked it, added a further tag(photobookV1N1)..I was after a way of keeping track of which images have been used in which photobook. My actual tag was more specific than this but you get the idea. Just a label to uniquely identify this collection.
What would be nice would be a way to automate this a bit, use the export function to tag the image. Is this possible?
Maybe its a back to front workflow. Sometimes it was easier to:
tag(photobookV1N1) to the images as I was looking through various folders and tag collections. Then view them all together using photobookV1N1 tag rule. If happy, select all and do a bulk export(in which case the photobookV1N1 tag is already there of course). Switch over to layout software, import the images and place them.
while other times.. for example I had the book layout page all done bar one image and was looking for something to “fit” that spot. Find a DT image, tag it and then export it immediately etc

Workflow summary

This process allows me to delete the exported folder(which is quite large) once its all been uploaded and the book created. Thus reducing my personal storage requirements. I can easily recreate it in the future using the photobookV1N1 tag and bulk export because DT remembers all the modifications/processing.
I am pretty sure the print company keeps an “embedded” version on their storage facility. So if need be you simply go back there for future reprints. The files and layout do not need to be uploaded again.
It also means if I need to go the PDF way I know which images were used and again can do it in bulk. Sure the layout will have to be recreated.
I can also “detach” or remove the image from the books list. Say I decided not to use it in this book. Using the collections, rule, photobookV1N1 tag, I see all the images in that collection I then simply select the image and detach the tag, thus removing the photobookV1N1 tag. It is no longer associated with this book. In the case shown (green tree). Note that I have used this workflow to redefine this image. Its not really landscape, I removed the landscape tag, adding jungle, in its place.
The process is ongoing… happy tagging, happy printing, happy new year.

National treasure

Behind the waves of grain

Lying in the shadow of Nick Cave‘s glow, lies a golden gem of a town. Born from the wheat belt of the late 1800s and part of the vast agricultural Mallee district Warracknabeal is the “seat of government for the Shire of Yarriambiack” and nestled in the beautiful sun drench lands of the Wimmera. It has the strong heart so often found in the hard farming areas and its blood runs thick with art and artists pursuits. It lies along the path of the Silo art trail and creates connections to a number of historic treasures.


Leura Log Cabin

Some of these treasures are not so easy to spot nowadays, drifting into the memories of years gone by. Yet the land is alive, still active, still breathing. It is one of these old world treasures, “where time has stopped”,  that I bring to focus and would care to shed a little light on, in this blog.


Leura as viewed from the creek

The warm inviting glow of a log cabin

Sounded like a perfect answer to a well needed R&R break. With little hesitation and to be honest even lesser knowledge of the place, we booked a few nights stay. It’s a fair hike from Melbourne but after our visit to this area, (myblog on  Murtoa a house made of sticks), back in October of 2015, another visit was well overdue, for there is so much more to see. A heavy workload, an overdrawn wedding anniversary and gigs left n right paved the way to a needed getaway.


Leura cabin under candle light

From a photographic view there is so much here to snap. I was on holiday but couldn’t help crack open the camera bag a little. It presented some opportunities for images I don’t normally have the settings or time to try. So it made for a challenge and good fun.


Leura cabin at sunset

Rusty nails

On the edge of the Rusty Nails Restaurant, (unfortunately currently closed 2017. Anyone know a good chef? Give Danny a call.) on the same patch of land, hidden behind all manner of historic artefacts lies the golden log cabinLeura“. The original homestead has been renovated to keep the rain out and charm in. What once was a full, warm country style B&B, is now still available as a place to stay but you make your own breakfast 🙂 Whilst you may have to cook it yourself Danny(your host) still provides an assortment of fresh eggs, crumpets, cereals and the like. Ready and welcoming, Danny gave us a short tour of the place and whilst the hosts then leave you be, they are always available on site if you need them. An amazing gent to chat to, I enjoyed going over to say gday during our visit. To top up on eggs n such but really to listen to some great tales of the surrounding place and its history.


Leura at sunrise

The cabin itself is adorned with all manner of antiques and knickknacks of our past centuries.

D20_0048Danny has an amazing collection of things that no matter how many times you look and think you’ve spotted everything. You suddenly recognise a piece you hadn’t noticed before. Bathed in sunlight, weather and years of cobwebs, the charm is alluring.


There are lean too sheds you can poke a look at, full of things.

At night time these things take on a whole new life of mystery and forgotten times.


Outside the cabin

Power and hot water

It’s not all old school tho, you do have power, a microwave is even snuck into an alcove. Sweet tasting, cold running water, straight from the tank. Kettle to heat it up as there is no hot water otherwise in the cabin. The hot shower and toilet,  hideaway in a smaller building within easy reach along a quaint path past a pond and garden. Its all clean and a pleasant to be around. Its close to the real thing of how they lived back then but without it being rough. A great outdoor undercover bbq area adds to the ample living space. An additional outdoor, under the stars, bathing area for two which is currently under construction is just going to be amazing when its complete.


Outdoor under the stars bath, a re-enactment of things to come 😉

A treat

On arrival you are treated with real old world hospitality. A glass of red, bowl of fresh fruit and chocolates sure to please anyone. For breakfast there is freshly ground plunger coffee, golden crumpets and a variety of cereals. Milk in the mini fridge.


treats on arrival

You are instantly relaxed by the charm of the place. Gentle cooing from the distant pigeons coup creates a backdrop to  the chirps of parrots and the tinkle of wind chimes.  I sat on the porch and watched the eagles soar, read my book a classic old spitfire pilots  battle of Britain diary. I’d look up to see a squadron of sparrows just larking about, chasing each other like a dogfight reenactment. Butterflies flit passed and lizards scramble over the brickwork. Even when it rains the sound is snuggly and welcome, especially in the cool of night when you have the option of cuddles on the couch in front of  then open fireplace.


Cosy open fireplace

Spent many a moment just watching the shadows flicker thru the bits n bobs on the shelves and flame light dance in my wine glass.

A base to branch out

Its a good central spot to branch out from too. Shops are not far away and a 45 min duck into the  bigger town of Horsham is a nice drive too, if you need a slice of civilisation. But here you are enveloped in agriculture, farm lands, silos, hay bails and amazing skies.


Drenched in gold sunlight

On the road

More to visit as we journeyed on the Wimmera highways and that story will unfold in my next blog…

3d brush off

Tidy up those tooth brushes

I recently had to replace the battery on our faithful Braun OralB 3d electric toothbrush. That was a simple and mundane process but it did trigger me to find a solution on housing the brush heads. Family of 4 and with a few different brush heads we have gone through a few different variations on trying to keep them tidy. Always on the lookout for 3d print jobs to help hone my skills on Solidworks and our 3d printers, I figured this would be a perfect project.


Rotating Oralb brushhead organiser

Clearance Clarence 

One of the tripups on 3d printing is getting tolerance levels right. Especially moving parts, interference tolerances and friction fit. So I planned to work on those a little bit with this project. Tolerance one, was the fit of the brushhead on the posts. The brushhead has an interesting shaped and tapered cavity that locks onto the handle and motor housing. I measured the base up and subtracted .5mm. I was not going to taper the posts but I did put in the indent and provided plenty of “fillet” to help support the post on the wheel. The second “sliding fit” tolerance was between the wheel and the base. The idea was lazy susanish. It would allow me to spin the wheel around to select the brushhead. I could just have a central post but lets up the ante a bit. I decided on a post and ring. This meant two interference fit surfaces and double the xp points.


the base with its centre “axle” and spin ring


Come in spinner

Obviously the extruded boss size and shape had to mate with the wheels extruded cut. This is no biggie for Solidworks. I added .5 mm height on the boss so the bottom of the wheel (the flat) did not rest on the bases top surface. The surfaces that touch are only the top lip of the ring and the sidewall of the axis.


wheel plate bottom view

Lots or 1 and 2mm fillets everywhere to avoid edges and it gives it a manufactured/professional  polished look.

Easy peasy lemon peely

This particular 3d printer boasts an ezy peel setting. That’s the foundation layer it uses to build the part on. Basically a cross hatch of sacrificial thin plastic. Easy is not always the word I would use but with a handy mini chisel scalpel, the job gets done fairly quickly. Watch those fingers, wear gloves. DON’T use the mini chisel to leaver off the plastic! Slice the plastic away between the part and the foundation layer. Leaver if you have to, only  with a screwdriver. Good old packing foam  creates a quick protective holder. I gave the flat surfaces a quick sand to clean up any leftovers.


Peeling off the foundation

Thats all folks

The base can either be screwed or glued or mounted in numerous ways to something in the bathroom. Being all plastic and with plenty of water run off edges, the design will allow good access and keep things neat and be easy to clean away that toothpaste plaque that seems to build up on anything the heads touch. Or is that just because the kids don’t flush the heads after use?

A Roland mystery goop

Whats brown and corrosive?

Initial thought was coffee spill. But it didn’t have that typical sweet coffee smell. It was certainly very sticky and the dried areas of the substance were very stubborn to removal. Hey this sort of gear is used in pubs so who knows, right? Moving right along.


The fabulous Roland KC880 is a majestic stereo 5ch input combo amp.Well worth the attention it was getting. It was fine except for mic input, ch1. Any amount of gain and it popped, fizzed, crackled, glitched and incessantly faltered. As with most amps, to get to the PCB we have to remove 500..or so.. knobs n front panel nuts. This revealed the PCB and the problem. Also like many amps you can’t work on it opened up because the wire harnesses are too short. This is a big amp btw, it has its own wheels. Welcome to my world of pain.

Of interest is where the goop pooled. Its obvious it had to come down the potentiometer shaft(above right). This pot was ch2 gain but the goop was pooled around the mic preamp section of ch1, bingo.


The pot had to be removed for cleaning too but it was interesting the goop had migrated almost without trace from the pot to this final resting place. After much scrubbing I had removed the goop. It was an almost unbeatable match for my tool of warfare the optic fibre(fibreglass bristle) brush. Indicators gave away the fact the goop was once a very thin liquid as it had indeed slithered its way under the SMD components. I also found traces of it  much further away on various parts and especially the switches protruding through to the front panel… this indicated bio hazard like chemical warfare type spillage. Someone must have a had a real good party, probably the type “respectable physicists” or in this case chemists wouldn’t be found at. Lots of careful cleaning and almost a can of contact cleaner went into the ozone. Sometimes you just have to keep going, pursue to the end. Like a dog with chew toy don’t let it go or defeat you. Such a small percentage fault of a much bigger and complex device. I couldn’t turn away from this one, the hours ticked by but progress was forthcoming.


Almost cleaned, at least we can see components now

It still burped and carried on

A good clean solves 80% of problems but not this time. It still whistled and whinged. I went in search of corroded parts. First to fall  victim was the missing collector pin of Q16. Followed by high resistive values for R147, R146. Closer tests revealed, R149 and well that 1k in the middle was dead. D4 and D5 were still gooped underneath so everything, one at a time so I didn’t misplace something, was removed cleaned and returned. Q16 was a problem, no collector. It did however have the same LG text as Q15.. A net search indicated this could be anything but deduction kept bringing me back to a typical NPN transistor.  I found a possible same SOT elsewhere (which was driving a LED) so did a transplant and then replaced the LED one with a BCW72 I had in my parts bin. Less chance of incurring the wrath of parameter missmatch this way.

After the cleaning, re soldering and buzzing out of signal paths it was time to hook it up again.

Well what do you know, surgery par excellence

Nice quiet mic preamp. Ran it thru its paces and gain figures matched. Tested the line input switchover and concluded the transplant was a winner. Back to work for you boyo.


While I didn’t take photos 😦 I can state the main amp, as is the transformer, is located in the speaker cab. Access is by removing the grill and then the speaker/s. I checked in here spillage or anything untoward. All looked good and the whole amp had that great solid and dependable Roland quality of build about it.

If you incite chemical warfare at your next party and things spill over, do have the nous to tip smothered device onto an edge that might drain nasty substances away from precious electrons. Oh and contact your doctor immediately for a flush. The spill is not the problem, the slowly corroding goop it might turn into tho, is the beginning of your financial nightmare.

It went off like a fire cracker

It spewed forth like a party popper

So I’m testing a system that has a tendency to run away and thus destroying the carbon filament feeder motor on a rather large robotic carbon part “printer”.
I joined this scenario after the second motor, now a charcoal remnant of its former self was brought to my desk.
So I think Ill emulate the load with a resistor instead of just replacing the dead unit with the new $500 device. .. Estimated(according to the manual) power delivered was 60W.
So I opted for a 100W emulated load.
System was stable for a while, readings as expected in fact on the low side.

Then it suddenly did its thing


Readings in the last nano second, recorded ratings of 900W. My poor 100W rated load disembowelled itself after loosing the watt war. The blue croc clip pictured right was found 20m away. The bus wires that paralleled the gold resistors were never found. The coiled black wire you see, is the resistive wire that is normally wound around the “black” former which should be inside the gold aluminium cladding, potted. The putrid smell of dead electrons still inhabit my nostrils.

So yes we have a problem

Further inspection. I traced the estimated 2amp wires back to a very large man height cabinet on the wall. On opening. The 3 phase fuses on this thing look like sticks of dynamite. But hey its a big robot..  I traced the motor feed wires to their control board. This PCB was feed by a 20amp 48v transformer….WT? The motor is rated at 30v max at 2 amps. This defies Spock logic.


Currently waiting response from manufacturer for a host of questions I now have..

Cable Identification Tip/Hack


Cable haze be gone

There are many instances in this day and age of  escalating cable count where things just get out of hand. The maze of wires becomes untraceable. Whether its behind the home theatre system, the collection of computer leads at work or in my case on the stage keeping track of mic an guitar feeds.

There are many accessories available, sticky labels(eww the left over residue tho) , velcro, cable ties etc but my hack was born from quick thinking on site. Its cheap, removable and simple.

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Plumbers tape PTFE

PTFE also known as; teflon, plumbers tape, pipe seal tape, thread seal tape is the way. Thin and sticks to itself with no sticky residue. Does not bulk up the cable. White so it marks clearly and easily with various pens and sharpies. Simply wrap the teflon around the cable and write on it. I have also foregone the writing part and just put a series of rings in some instances(ie 3 rings is microphone 3 etc). The tape loves a sharpie and depending on how you wind it will yield long or short label space. It holds very well to the lead even if you are feeding the cable thru things but I tend to wrap it just before I connect it to its source or destination.

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Flat wraps are the best

Application and Removal tip

As mentioned the stuff sticks to itself rather well. The first wrap is probably the hardest but youtube for instructions and once you get the hang of it its quick to apply. I tend to wrap around 5 or so times and break and break it with my fingers rather than stretching till snap on the cable. This provides a cleaner edge with which to unpeel later on.

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To remove, find that edge! and roll it the opposite way with your finger or thumb. If it starts to tear it can get a bit tricky. Again a bit of practice. Once that first lip is up its easy street.

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Armoured for life

If you really want it to last, give it an armoured coating with a quick cheap wrap of clear spiral cable wrap.

What brought this on?

I was looking for a quick way to label a stack of guitar and microphone leads whilst on set bumping in a band. There is nothing worse than having dozens of cables hooked to various things and in the chaos of a bump in someone patches it to the wrong thing. Trying to trace where its come from or going to later can waste precious time. Not all the leads are mine so I can’t just go permanently marking them. I hate having to clean up sticky residue from labels or masking tape etc so I wouldn’t do that to someone else either. I kept thinking cling wrap would do then the brain took a leap, plumbers tape! I always have some in the tool kit and away we went.

I did some further , longevity, testing after the gig and it lasted remarkably well.


10m of teflon plumbers tape is a few $$ and available anywhere.

Spiral wrap should be available at electronics store or hardware, about $5 for 25m


Shining like a National

ukulele !

I’m not a great uke fan to be honest. I prefer my tones a little lower but when  friend mentioned  a “resonator uke” my interests were captured. Immediate thoughts turned to Graceland.

“The Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar”

~Paul Simon

And I was not disappointed. This was indeed a mini National resonator with even the famous diamond pattern cover plate. All housed onto and into a cigar box.

Again my disclaimer, this is not a buildalong or howto but a collection of experiences. There are many websites with great buildalongs and in depth information. I would encourage builders to do your research as there are so many ways to skin this cat and all lots of fun.

Do I have tools?

So my muso friend Chantelle loves a uke but was looking for a bluesy sound. She did some reading and was hooked on a resonator style uke idea. Lots of people out there building cigar box ukes with resonators. Lots of kits and suppliers of parts available too but she was in need of some basic tools. This is where I drop into the story. So after most of the components arrived, a date was arranged to hangout in my shed and build. Chantelle is thorough in her research and her attention to detail and willingness to tool up is great, so we worked together well.



So over a cuppa we did a quick pre assemble of the parts and went thru some ideas on how we were going to complete the project. We went thru the various bits n pieces and kit parts she had purchased. All looked of reasonable quality.

Things were going to be tight around the resonator end. But it would all fit in there.

Using the cover plate for reference we drew our centre lines, marked out the box and cut the resonator hole and sound holes.boxholescut


The real question was ..

How do we mount the cone?

The cone sits inside a “soundwell” so that the string saddle(bridge biscuit) sits above the surface of the top and provides us with the string action height. Chantelle was quick with the maths and measures and we decided the simplest solution was to build an inner box to house and support the cone.

The construction was straight forward. A bottom plate of ply to stop the cone from falling thru was glued to a second plate which helped position and centre the cone. My Delta scroll saw continued the link to the Mississippi and we took that as a good omen.. After scrolling out 3 holes Chantelle was getting better at scroll work 😉 A little shaping on the oscillating spindle sander to true up the inner circles and we were good. The cone drops in from the top. Being a cigar box the back is hinged and not much good to mount things so the soundwell would have to mount from the front. We could and may yet, glue the  well to the inside front but for now we created a top plate that would grab the shiny chrome cover plate screws, securing it rather well to the top. It meant for now we could disassemble and thus ease potential problems and pitfalls we might come across later. Four posts space the top plate from the cone holder and thus sets the bulk of the action height. The inner box is a snug fit inside the cigar box.


Using the centre lines and paper template we drilled ans screwed the neck in place. Taped the fretboard to the neck and screwed the tuning pegs onto the headstock.headstocktuningpegs

The biggest problem to slow us down from first sound was how to mount the strings at the tail end. The cover plate was intended to be used with beaded strings, which was not what we had. So grabbing a scrap of hardwood I set about making tailpiece. Not so easy as its a compounded curved surface. I drilled 4 small holes thru the tail to accommodate the strings and used the two outer “bead” holes and two screws with washers to mount the tailpiece to the plate.


Using only 4 of the cover plate screws we mounted the cover plate and made sure to capture the soundwell/inner box. Getting a little excited now we whipped the strings on for our first sound test and proof of concept.


First sounding


As expected the tuning does not hold well with new strings we also found the tuning pegs were decentering from the headstock holes with the string tension. The pegs did not come with proper bushes so we will have to look at that later. Other than that it sounded great and had a very distinct metallic ring to it.


With the initial success proven, we broke it back down and continued our build. Sanding parts back and properly gluing the fretboard and neck. Do note the use of bicycle inner tubing as the best woodworkers clamp ever discovered.



Thinking to the future, we made a small block that glued into the inner box to provide a little more meat for the strap button screw.

Additional tuning peg bushes from a local music shop.


After the gluing set over night Chantelle returned to pick it all up and whisk it home for the restring and a decent play before we commence part two of the build which will involve the cosmetics.


Next up.. paint

see you in part 2

*Photographs, Chantelle Riordan and Mark Symonds