We’ll make crypto money with Arduino by selling NFTs following these steps:
- Solder a circuit to control a stepper motor and an infrared LED
- Implement a Sketch to control the motor and trigger a camera via infrared signal
- Construct a motorized helicoid to change the focus of a macro lens
- Find a nice motive and setup the rig
- Let the machine shoot a series of images for focus stacking
- Process the images for the final result
- Sell the image on a NFT marketplace
Okay, you’ll need some additional supply (such as a suitable camera). And this might not be the easiest way to make crypto money (with an Arduino compatible microcontroller). To be honest, it was not the initial intention of this construction to sell NFTs. It was fun building because it was challenging in so many disciplines, actually there is still a lot of room for improvements. But now I have a working prototype of a mobile, low-cost machine for automated focus stacking. An otherwise expensive or tricky and circuitous technique.
Focus stacking (also known as focal plane merging and z-stacking or focus blending) is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images.[Wikipedia]
Basically, it helps getting an overall sharp image of extreme magnification, you can end up with a “gm” image making the filament of the paper visible like here. “gm letter” is the initial piece of the “gm” collection at objkt.com. gm #NFTCommunity!
“gm letter” from the “gm” collection.
Buy one edition here!
Another example result of a setup like here is the animated closeup of a ladybird as seen blow. The insect was found dead, no animals have been harmed to make any of the pictures in the galleries.
“Dwarf Coleoptera Bruised” from the “Dwarf Monsters” collection on OpenSea.
Buy one edition here!
The buildup shown here is not the first version of an Arduino driven focus stacking machine. Over the years, multiple different approaches have been built, evaluated and optimized. The main features of this iteration are the mobility (all attached to the extension tube, completely battery driven) and a simple user interface (three buttons).
The macro focus stacking setup for “gm letter”.
Read below for details about every single step mentioned above.
Solder a circuit to control a stepper motor and an infrared LED
The STM32 Blue pill board utilized in this buildup is a relatively low-cost and easy to get Arduino compatible microcontroller development board. Not many additional electronic components are required, the circuit is simple enough for being soldered on a breadboard. See the following image for the components. The next version should feature a display of Smartphone interface for visualization of the current mode and settings.
Implement a Sketch to control the motor and trigger a camera via infrared signal
A state machine for reading the buttons and controlling the motor was implemented, the basic states are:
- Forward (as long as button 1 is pressed)
- Backward (as long as button 3 is pressed)
- Stacking sequence (after button 2 was pressed shortly)
The potentiometer is attached to an analog input and adjusts the step size (1 to 255) after each step of the stack.
Code snippets for triggering a Nikon camera via IR signal were available and ported to work as Arduino code. The trick is to duplicate the blink code from a Nikon camera infrared remote, with the correct sequence and timing of on/off phases, the camera triggers. With some research, code for different camera brands could be found to make it compatible with your non-Nikon camera.
Leave a message if you’re interested in the code.
Construct a motorized helicoid to change the focus of a macro lens
This part is tricky, since the focus helicoids you can buy or were available for 3D-printing as of the time constructing, are not well suited for motorization. The solution found here utilizes a Nikon 35-70mm zoom lens with all glass removed and modified with a M42 mount to hold adapted or reversed lenses. An alternative to the zoom lens helicoid could be adjustable lens bellows. In the next version, a 3D printable, motorizable helicoid would be a great improvement.
The stepper motor and belt were found in a printer and repurposed to drive the zoom of the lens.
Motorized focus helicoid.
Motorized focus helicoid lens setup.
Find a nice motive and setup the rig
The world looks completely different and often very fascinating when seen in extreme magnification, like this ordinary sheet of paper shown in this article. So interesting motives actually can be found everywhere!
The machine built here can be used with any lens that can be attached to a M42 mount. Here, a 50mm Schneider-Kreuznach enlarger lens, adapted to M42 was attached with additional extension tubes to achieve the desired magnification.
When shooting extreme macro the camera should be as steady as possible. With a tripod and optimized camera parameters (such as mirror lock up) you get the best results. In this example no flash was used, what caused some (acceptable) fluctuation in the resulting image exposures. Since the LED lights are pulsed (faster than the human eye), the illumination might vary when shooting with short shutter speed. It is recommended to work with a flash (the lower the better = shorter flash) to minimize every tiny shake.
The right step size can be found empirically, by shooting a small series of pictures and checking if the sharp areas in the images overlap. If the step size needs to be adjusted this can be done with the potentiometer. Once the best step size for a specific combination of lens / extension tube / aperture setting was found it could be re-used every time for this combination.
Behind the scenes of shooting “gm letter”.
Let the machine shoot a series of images for focus stacking
With all the preparation described above, this part is done automatically after starting the stacking process.
Process the images for the final result
Here, RAW processing was done in Adobe Lightroom and the stacking was done with Helicon Focus. Make sure to remove dust from the lens to avoid artefacts in the stacked image, also find the right parameters (at least radius and smoothing) for stacking.
Sell the image on a NFT marketplace
Have a look at my linktree page for a selection of available marketplaces with NFT photography. This particular piece is the initial piece of my “gm” collection and it is planned to shoot additional high magnification macro images with the stacking machine!
Visit the “gm” collection at objkt.com!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy macro photography.
If you need additional inspiration check out the trainings below. These are affiliate links (When visitors to the affiliate’s site click on the advertisements and go to the advertiser’s site, the affiliate may receive a commission if that click leads to a sale).
This is the comprehensive photography masterclass:
This is a course for trick photography, definitely a lot of fun!
Don’t want to spend much time tinkering and use your phone instead?
Any questions? Ask me in the comments or at Twitter!