Monday, October 27, 2008

Alright, here's the newest photo from last night

And as of this weekend, the total is $273. Still lots to go, keep sending in that money if you want to see me shave my head :-D

Thanks again to everyone that has donated, and thanks in advance to anyone planning on donating!

Monday, October 20, 2008

10/20/08 - Beards BeCAUSE update

Alright folks, I'm going to get everyone up to date on the cause. First, here are the first three photos:

Here I am clean shaven at the beginning of it all.

And here's week 1.

And week 2, this last weekend.

Now that we're up to date with the photos, here's the total for donations. So far, we've raised $143. Keep it comin' if you want to see me go bald. In December, that is, cause I'm pretty sure we all know I'll get there eventually ;-)

Thanks again for all of your support :-D

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beards BeCAUSE

Hey everyone! I hope this finds you all in good spirits as we near my favorite part of the year: Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas! I get to dress goofy, eat til I'm goofy, then see my goofy family back home ;-D. I know I'm looking forward to all of the above! This is a lengthy post, but I think it'll be worth it to read to the end (or at least to the bolded text below :-P)

The reason for this post is to let you all know about what I'm doing during the next couple of months. I decided to help support a good cause and join Beards BeCAUSE this year. As their website states:
"Beards BeCAUSE is a two month fundraising campaign that raises awareness for domestic violence and supports the United Family Services Shelter for Battered Women in Charlotte, North Carolina. It involves a group of volunteer men and women working together to raise donations in a variety of categories from beard growers, men with existing beards, and those who cannot grow beards at all. It is our hope that our efforts will help wipe out domestic violence."

The kickoff party for Beards BeCAUSE was two weeks ago, at which point I shaved off my beard (all 'growers', as they call us, had to be clean shaven on the night of the kickoff party). In show of my support for the cause, I won't be shaving for 2 months, until December 5th to be exact. During this time, I will be raising money for the shelter via donations. I will also be scratching my face off as the first month or so of growing a beard involves lots of itchiness. Good times indeed :-D

If you are able, we would love your donations for the cause. You can donate online using the link below, or you can get me a check as well, just shoot me an email and I'll get you my info.

But for those of you that know me well, you know that I like spicing things up every now and then. And when it comes to raising money, I'll do a lot of interesting (for lack of a better word...) things. So here's my twist:

If you all help me raise over $2500, I will shave my head.

For those good with math: Donations>$2500=(-Hair)
Or those who write computer programs: If Donations>$2500, Then I go bald.

Any way you put it, if you raise the bread, you'll see my head. Bare, that is. Though the beard stays.

I'm doing this for two reasons. One, anything I can do to raise a little extra money is worth it. And two, I don't think I can raise that much money. That's not to say I won't try, I'll be asking everyone I know to donate. And I encourage you to send this to people you know as well, make a game of it. But I do like my hair ;-)

If, by chance, I am able to raise over $2500, I will have a party for the head shaving. You will all be invited. And for those that are not in the Charlotte area, I will make sure to have my friends take lots of photos and videos, and will post them online for all to see. Simply get me your email address when you donate and I'll send you the link if it happens. If it happens. I'll keep track of my activity here on my blog, I'll post photos weekly to show the progress of my beard, and I'll try to keep you up to date with money totals. You can also track my progress online at the Beards BeCAUSE website ( on the 'Participants' page. My name is approx. 1/2 of the way down the page. That's also where you'll see the link to donate online with my name as a reference.

Alright, I thank you all in advance for whatever donation you are able to give. Also, donations are all tax deductible. And if you can't donate right now, remember, you've got all the way through November to donate, or if you'd like to volunteer at the shelter you can click the link below to get you to their website. All of the pertinent information will be listed below for you. I hope you're all having a great day, and I'll talk to you all later :-D

Thanks again,
Jeremy Kuster

PS: Feel free to send this on to anyone you think might be willing to help out :-D Thanks again!

To donate to Beards BeCAUSE under my name, go to the Participants page on their website here, then scroll about 1/2 of the way down and find my name. On the right side of the screen across from my name you'll see the 'Donate Now' link. Click that and it will take you to a PayPal site where you can donate under my name. Make sure the reference name is Jeremy Kuster under Beards BeCAUSE on the PayPal site. You can also send cash or a check to me made out to United Family Services, put Beards BeCAUSE in the note line, as well as my name.

Beards BeCAUSE website

United Family Services website

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CPMG Flickr Tutorial

Flickr Tutorial for The Charlotte Photography Meetup Group

This tutorial will go over the basics of getting you up and running on Flickr for the purpose of sharing images with our group for comments and critiques.

To begin, if you do not yet have an account on Flickr, you can sign up for a free one very easily. Just visit their site and follow the instructions by clicking on the “Create Your Account” button near the top right of the screen. The free account allows up to 100MB of image uploads a month and up to 3 sets (A set is a form of organization for your images, though we’ll get into that more later). One downfall of the free account is that you won’t be able to see your photos at their original size, Flickr will automatically scale them down a bit (though it saves the originals in case you upgrade at a future date). This is not a major problem though, as the photos are still large enough to clearly see and work with, especially for our purposes.

If you choose to do so though, you can upgrade to a Pro account for roughly $25 a year. This allows unlimited uploads and unlimited sets and collections.

Once you’ve signed up, the first thing I’m going to point you to is our group site on Flickr. I’ll ask that you join this right away, is it will make parts of the rest of this tutorial easier to work with if you’re already a group member. It’s very simple, just go to and click on “Join this group?” to the right of the group name. Click “OK, Join” on the next page, and you’re set!

Now that you’ve signed up for the group, I’ll go over uploading photos. To upload your images, go back to your Flickr home site and click on “Upload Photos.” This will bring you to a page for uploading your photos, just follow the directions provided and you should be well on your way. *Hint, you can select multiple photos at once, just be prepared to wait for them all to upload.

When your photos are finished uploading, you’ll be able to titles, tags, and/or descriptions to them. To do this, click on “describe your photos” after they’ve uploaded. This will take you to a page for adding/editing this information. You can edit them here right after you upload them, or you can edit each photo individually anytime afterwards (or by using the “Organize” tab you can edit groups of photos simultaneously, though that’s more advanced than we’re going to go with this tutorial). Before I go any further though, I’m going to explain what it is you’re adding to your photos.

Titles and descriptions should both be pretty obvious. You can title your images whatever you’d like to. Your descriptions are going to come into play more when we’re discussing critiques though. Go ahead and write down anything you’d like us to know about your photo (i.e. where you were, why you took it, what you were thinking, etc.). The more useful information you can give us though, the more people can learn from your image. And the better it can be critiqued (in fact, for certain critiques you’ll be required to put specific information into your description, but I’ll get into that later).
Tags are keywords/phrases that you can assign to your photos to make them more searchable. They can be anything from your name, location, the date the image was taken, subject matter, or themes. They’re usually one word in length or simple phrases or names. They can also be specifically designed to refer to a specific event or shoot, such as we’re doing with our events. Take this photo for instance:

This is a photo I took at our strobist outing on January 19, 2008. I could theoretically add these tags: Jeremy Kuster, Strobist, Angie, car, mini, red, asian, sexy, Charlotte, CPMG11908Strobist. The first is obvious, my name. Strobist refers to the lighting style, and Angie is the models name. Car is pretty self-explanatory. It just so happens the car is Mini-Cooper. Her jacket is red(ish). She’s Asian. The image has a sexy look (though that’s up for interpretation, you could put whatever you thought your image looked like). It was taken in Charlotte. And the last tag refers to our group event tags. All of our shoots and assignments will be given a tag to use in Flickr. Our shoot that Saturday in January was given the tag CPMG11908Strobist. CPMG = Charlotte Photography Meetup Group, 11908 is the date (1/19/08), and Strobist is the event name for the tag. The purpose of this is to allow us to easily search for all the images uploaded from that shoot. If you go to your main Flickr page and put CPMG11908Strobist in the search box and hit enter, all of the photos from that day that have been uploaded will show up. Very useful when trying to find images for comments and critiques. The tags for the events will be created by the organizers of the event, so that everyone uses the same exact tag. They’ll be posted on our group Flickr site under the thread titled “Tag listing for all events/shoots.”

Now that I’ve gone over what tags are, you should be ready to enter your tags and descriptions. From the “Describe your photos” page, you have two options for entering tags. You can use the batch function at the top of the page to add the same tags to all of your images (enter in the tags you want and then click “Add”), or you can enter tags one by one under each individual image. You can also enter in your descriptions for each image.

Now that you’ve got that done, let’s move on to working with our Flickr group. I’ll start by explaining what we want to use our Flickr group for and what we hope to get out of it. While our Meetup site is great for organizing events and gaining new members, it lacks a bit when it comes to its options for showing and critiquing images. It just wasn’t meant to be a photography site, and that’s perfectly alright. But because of that, we want to use Flickr to allow us to better comment on and critique each other’s images, because the only way you can get better is to find out where you need to improve.
To do this, a few things are required. First, you have to have a Flickr account (check). Second, your photos need to be uploaded to your account (check). Third, you need to have them tagged and described properly. While you may have them tagged properly (with the event tag and whatnot), you may not have a suitable description in there for critique just yet. The quick way to think of it is this: The more valuable information you provide (i.e. lighting info, exposure info, thoughts behind the image, who/what the image is meant for or its target market, etc.), the more in depth a critique can be given. There will be three levels of critique. The first is the most simple: No critique please. Obviously this means you don’t want a critique, which is perfectly fine and is a good way to make sure we understand that. The second is: Basic critique. This may be as simple as suggesting another camera angle or moving a light, but either way it will most likely be brief and involve only one or two elements of the photo. This is a good one to start with until you’re sure you can handle and understand more involved critiques. For this level, you’ll need some basic info in the description, like lighting information and exposure information. Without that information, critique will be difficult to give, even basic critique. The third level of critique is: Advanced critique. Ultimately, this is usually the most helpful critique, but it is also the most involved and requires the most information. You’ll need to provide all available technical information on the photo (lighting setup, exposure, different kinds of lights, other variables, etc.) as well as a target market for the image and/or what your intended purpose is for the image. Without a target market/intended purpose it’s almost impossible to give a detailed advanced critique, as every photo can have multiple purposes, and it will work better for some than for others.

When determining what level of critique you want on your image, write in the description the level you decide on, as well as all of the pertinent information. It’d be easiest if you wrote the level of critique desired at the very bottom of the description.

Once you have your description finished for the photos you want critiqued or just to show, then we need to put them in our group photo pool. The pool is all of the images that members of our group want everyone to see. Simply uploading them into Flickr will not enter them into the group, you must send them there yourself. To do this, you can go to the photo you wish to send, then hit the button labeled “Send to Group” (it’s under the title of the photo, second one from the left). A list of your groups will pop up, just select the one you wish to send it to and off it goes. You can only send 15 images per week to the group. This is to prevent overloading the pool with one person’s images, and to remind you that the images you upload to the group need to be related to an event or meetup of the group. If you send an image to the group that does not have an event or meetup tag, it will most likely be deleted. We want to keep the pool clear of random images, there are plenty of other places to show your images, plus we’ll be able to see your other images on your own pages.

This should put you on a good start to using Flickr. Though there’s much much more to learn about Flickr, this is only meant to be a basic tutorial. If you need more help, don’t hesitate to ask any of us that have experience on the site, we’d be glad to help.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Random, non-photo, musically inclined post

I often find myself perusing the random posts and videos of the internet, usually in the hopes of finding some unknown or previously unseen (at least to me) bit of internet magic. This weekend I came across a bulletin posted on MySpace that really hit me. It was a video of a man named Paul Potts, the title of the bulletin was something along the lines of 'Don't judge a book by it's cover.' Mr. Potts was on the show Britain's Got Talent (the aptly named English version of America's Got Talent), and it was the video of his first performance.

From looking at the man and hearing him talk, you really wouldn't give him a second thought normally. Don't get me wrong, he seems like a very nice guy, just an ordinary man though.

But his talent. Wow. Well, take a look for yourself here.

It sent chills up my spine. I love music of most all kinds, but I'd never really gotten into opera. Mainly, I suppose, because I'd never really heard opera. But he's got me seriously thinking about learning a little about it. If they can sing like that, I'm game to listen.

What hit me most though was the fact that this ordinary man, with an ordinary job, living his ordinary life, has an amazing talent, and really didn't understand just how amazing he was.

I think I listened to him sing four or five times yesterday. Just awesome.

As an aside, if you're interested, there was also a little 6 year old in the competition singing as well. And she was fantastic too. Listen/watch here.

I don't usually watch these kinds of shows. I loathe American Idol in fact. But I watched a few episodes of America's Got Talent the first season, and after seeing this, I think I'll probably tune in to see it if it comes on again :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ebay Trigger Mod Follow-up

First off, I'm glad that so many people are finding the mod useful. And thanks to DH for posting the mod on Strobist.

I've been told that Digi-Key is out of both the antenna and the connector, and won't have them in until anywhere from late November to Christmas apparently. Don't worry, there's a backup :-) Linx Technologies is the actual maker of the antenna and connector both, and they supply Digi-Key with their product for re-sale. You can buy both products directly from Linx. I actually just bought two more connectors and two antennas, and am expecting them in the next few days. I actually bought slightly different antennas, as I'm about to try an antenna modification to the receivers. But that's a whole different story :-)

The other thing I'd like to hit on is to remind people that this mod was never about matching the output of the Pocket Wizards. The debate between the Cactus triggers and PW's is an ongoing one for many people. All I'm trying to do here is give people who don't have the option of buying PW's (for whatever reason) a better option than the stock ebay triggers. Trust me, if I had the money to throw down on a set of PW's, I'd have them already. They're more than worth it I'm sure, but until then, I want the most reliable, most professional looking equipment I can manage.

That and it's fun to mess around with electronics :-D

Oh, and as an aside, for anyone interested, I have absolutely no professional background in electronics. I was a photo major in school, with a minor in environmental science. I've never taken a course in electronics, and the only things I've got going for me are my intuitive nature and the fact that I had an electronics kit as a kid way back when. So if I can figure this out and make it work, I have faith that many of you can as well, and some of you can probably make it work better :-)

Thanks again for the good comments, and I appreciate the suggestions as well :-D

Monday, October 29, 2007

GI Cactus V2s Modification Tutorial

What a first post, haha. Sit down for a good read, it may take a bit ;-)

And now I present to you, my tutorial for modifying the 'ebay' triggers.

This tutorial will outline the process involved in modifying a set of Gadget Infinity Cactus V2s triggers (one transmitter and two receivers). So far I have made three modifications; an antenna matched at 433MHz for the transmitter, a lanyard for the receiver, and an external 2xAA battery pack for the receiver. The reason for doing this is to increase reliability and trigger distance, hopefully making them a much better option for the financially challenged folks out there (such as myself).

Before I go too far though, there are a few things I need to mention. First (and probably foremost), I cannot be held responsible for any damage done to any transmitters/receivers while attempting these modifications. That said, there are certain skills required to do this correctly. Soldering being the most obvious and probably most difficult. I am no master at soldering, but make sure you know how to correctly solder before attempting this. Here is a good place to start learning or refresh yourself if you aren’t sure. You’ll also need to be able to drill steadily. Very important in that there are times when the drill will come close to the circuit board, and circuit boards don’t generally take well to spinning drill bits.

Next I’ll go over the supplies needed:



-Drill bits (I used a 3/16 and a 3/32)

-Soldering Iron

-Needle nose pliers

You’ll also need solder, wire (I used stranded copper wire), and epoxy.

For the actual modifications:

-433Mhz Antenna

I bought this from, product #ANT-433-CW-RH, approximate price $6.32. It’s a 433MHz ¼ Wave Whip Antenna with an RP-SMA connection, allowing it to be connected and disconnected as needed so it doesn’t get snapped off in your camera bag. Because of this, you’ll also need…

-RP-SMA Connector

I bought this at the same site, product # CONREVSMA004, approximate price $3.22.


I grabbed a lanyard for each receiver from random electronics around my house. They generally come with cell phones, mp3 players, and lots of other random small electronics (including many small digital cameras), so finding 2 wasn’t difficult for me. If you need to buy them, I know they sell them at places like Ritz/Wolf camera, but they’re probably ridiculously priced. You’re on your own for finding them though.

-2xAA Battery Holder

This I bought from the local Radio Shack. It’s an enclosed battery holder for 2 AA batteries. Technically you could use the 2xAAA battery holder too, but I really don’t see the point. The reason I got the enclosed case was for a more professional look. In the end there are no exposed wires, and the look is much nicer than the exposed battery cases. The price on these is right around $1.90 each I believe.

That’s all of the equipment/supplies needed. The antenna and connector came out to $15.59 with S&H (there’s a $5 charge for orders under $25), and I just picked up the battery cases locally. All told, under $20 for the supplies, plus costs of any tools and expendable supplies (i.e. wire, epoxy, etc.). This put my total cost with the transmitter and 2 receivers (plus S&H) at right around $82.

Now for the real meat of the tutorial. I’ll start with the transmitter antenna modification, as it is probably the most important in terms of the modification itself and the results it garners. Make sure to read through the whole tutorial before you start the work. And make sure to remove all batteries before as well.

To begin, you’ll have to drill the hole for the connector through the top plate of the transmitter. This seems simple, but in reality is probably the most difficult part for the mod, simply because there is limited room. If the hole is too close to the front, the connector won’t fit. If it’s too close to the back, it’ll hit the circuit board and again, won’t fit. Measure twice, cut once. It may help to drill a starter hole and move from there. I used the 3/16 bit, though in actuality it needs to be a bit larger hole than that. All I did was shave off small sections from the hole to make it bigger, so I honestly can’t tell you if a ¼ bit will work perfectly or not, but I suspect it would. I put the hole about 7/16” from the front, and 3/8” from the side with the 2.5mm jack. You can test the fit of the connector, but don’t yet mount it in.

Next, solder about 3 inches of wire to the bottom of the connector. Do this before you mount the connector, as it will be easier to keep from melting the plastic, unless you’re confident in your steady hand. I say 3” of wire because then you can cut to length before soldering the other end into the circuit board. When soldering the wire to the connector, you will probably have to solder it in a loop around the pin on the connector in order to allow the assembly to fit inside the transmitter, as shown.

Once the wire is soldered to the connector, go ahead and mount the connector to the top plate using the mounting nut that comes on the connector. After that, you’re ready to get the wire ready to be soldered to the circuit board. You’ll want to make sure you have enough room that it won’t be a stretch and won’t get in the way of the center post (where the top plate is screwed to the bottom plate), but not so much wire that there’s lots of extra in the transmitter.

Once you have the wire cut to length and the end stripped, go ahead and solder the wire to the open, tinned hole on the circuit board (near the front, opposite the side with the 2.5mm jack).


Another Strobist follower, vaddzagg, came up with an alternative method for the internal wire used to connect the antenna to the circuit board:

He used a length of wire equal to 1/4 wavelength of 433Mhz, in order to make the entire antenna including the wire a 1/2 wave antenna. He found that this improved his transmitter a bit more, you can send him mail via flickr here.


With that complete, your antenna mod should be done. All that is left is to attach the top plate, and screw in the antenna itself into the connector. This modification alone should give you a great boost to distance and reliability.

The next modification will be the simplest, the lanyard for the receivers. All I did for this was to drill two small holes near the top of the receiver on the side opposite the PC jack. I used the 3/32 bit, and drilled the holes about 3/32” apart from each other. Be careful with the drill, as if you go too far into the receiver after pushing through the case, you’ll hit wire. I then threaded the end of the lanyard in one hole and out the other (using a wire leader to pull it through), and attached the lanyard as shown. Easy modification, and now you can hang the receiver from anywhere you can hang a Pocket Wizard.

The last modification is the external battery pack for the receiver. This will increase the life of the receiver during a shoot, and also decrease the cost of batteries for the receiver (2 AA batteries versus the $10 CR2 3V batteries). As an aside, I use regular AA batteries instead of rechargeable batteries, so I have no idea how rechargeable batteries will work. I can’t imagine it would make much of a difference, but I’m just letting you know.

The first step in the battery mod is to get the case ready to be attached to the receiver. To do this, begin by simply removing the cover with a small Phillips-head screwdriver. Inside you’ll notice where the two wires come into the case and are soldered to small metal plates at the top of the case. Use the needle nose pliers to gently pull the plates out of the plastic case. They’ll put up a small fight, but be gentle and they’ll come out easy enough. Once they’re free of the case, pull them both out with the wires attached. We’ll put them back in later.

Now the case is ready to be attached to the receiver with some epoxy. First, line up the case exactly where you’ll want it on the receiver. If you look at my photos, you’ll see that I’ve attached it to the same side as the PC jack, about half way down the side and flush with the front of the receiver. At this location, the hole that we’ll drill will be in a convenient spot so as not to interfere with the spring or the circuit board inside. Once you have the location you want, you’re ready to epoxy. Remember that you want to epoxy the back of the battery case, not the front where the screw is to open it. Epoxy is very strong stuff, so you don’t need to overdo it (read: A little dab will do ya!). Put some epoxy on both the receiver and the battery case, and hold them in place until they set a bit and you can let them dry on their own. Once it’s dried and cured, you’re set to move on to the next step.

Next you’ll drill the hole through both cases to allow the wires to move through from the battery case to the receiver. When you’re drilling the hole, remember again to measure twice, cut once. The hole needs to be far enough from the front of the receiver so as to not hit the circuit board, but not so far it’s outside the receiver altogether. I found that the best place for the hole just happened to be where there’s a nice little post inside the battery cover (just to the left of the center post where the screw for the battery case cover goes). So I managed to grab something to wedge the post out (it comes off/out pretty easy, just use a flat head screwdriver or something similar), and then used that mark to drill the hole. I used the 3/32 bit again, but it’s a pretty tight fit for the wires. It should work, you just may have to shave a side of the hole a bit to give yourself a little extra room. Go VERY slow with this drilling, too fast and once you push through the case you’ll push through circuitry. And then all is for naught. So BE CAREFUL.

Once the hole is drilled, we can put the wires back into the case. First push the ends of the wires (opposite the ends soldered to the metal plates) through the new hole into the receiver. Pull them through a little ways and then set the metal plates back into their positions in the battery case, just as they were before they were pulled out. They should stay put pretty well, but if you want you can put a little superglue at the corners to keep them there (I didn’t bother, they friction fit just fine by me). Once the plates are in, pull the wires in the rest of the way, being careful to make sure they sit in the battery case well. Now we’ll get the wires ready to be soldered in the receiver.

First, we want to make sure we’re soldering the correct wire in the correct place. The red wire is positive, black is negative. If you don’t already know this, put down the soldering iron and step away. Just kidding. But not really.

The black wire is going to be soldered to the top of the metal plate with the spring attached, and the red wire will be soldered to the opposite plate. Before soldering, cut the wires to a manageable length such as shown in the photo. Once the length is correct, you’ll simply solder the wires in place. This can get a little tricky as you don’t want to melt the plastic of the case or touch any other circuitry, but very doable. Just try to bend and place the wire so it sits on the metal plate on its own before soldering.

Once you’ve got the wires soldered in correctly, you should be good to go. Throw a couple AA batteries in the case, put both covers on, and that’s it!

That should be it for all three modifications. Just make sure to take your time and do it right, and I think you’ll be very pleased with the results. There may be more modifications in the future, I’m always trying to make the equipment I have better in whatever ways I can. I hope this helps, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. My Flickr account is ‘kuster’, and my email address is Let me know how it turns out (unless something goes wrong :-P).