Friday, 25 May 2012

DIY quick release plate

Having got a really nice Acratech ball head I realised I needed some Arca Swiss style quick release plates. I initially bought a couple from pro media gear, they are very nicely made, and I have a 3 inch one permanently on the base of my camera, and a 6 inch fixed to the foot of my Sigma 500mm f/4.5. That just leaves my 70-200 f/2.8 and Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro without a quick release plate permanently attached. I could just take the one off my camera and switch that one back and forth, but it doesn’t fit the smaller foot particularly well, and it’s a pain having to remember to take an Allen key.


Whilst rummaging in the scrap metal bin in the workshop I came across an offcut of thick aluminium checkerplate. This was the ideal thickness for a quick release plate, and being aluminium it is easy to work by hand.

It didn’t take long to cut a piece out, and file it with 45 degree edges, and pleasing corners using a flat hand file. The file clogged quite quickly but using a draw file technique, and regular cleaning with a wire brush stopped any major issues.


Filed to shape

Drilled for 1/4” whitworth thread

Using the lens foot as a template I marked where to drill the holes, and used a centre punch to make sure I didn’t wander with the drill bit. Using a bigger drill bit I countersunk the holes. I cut a slot in the heads of the bolts to enable tightening with a screwdriver, and filed the underside to match the countersink.


With a coat of black paint it was ready to mount on the lens foot. I don’t know how durable the paint will be, of course anodising would be tougher, well, maybe I should look it up and see if I can!




Always measure twice, cut once. This rule also follows for drilling holes. Make sure you double check which side to do the countersink on. I messed it up the first time and had to remake the plate. Oops! Fortunately I’ve been able to use it on another project which I’ll blog about shortly :-)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Oil spill training

Every year on the bases a number of exercises are carried out, Search and Rescue, Fire evacuation, Oil spill training etc. This makes sure that everyone has a grasp of what needs to be done in the even of an emergency, and know how to use the equipment we have on base, and also serves to highlight anything that could be improved in the way these events are tackled.

There are a number of features on base, and procedures to minimise the risk of an oil spill. All the tanks are bunded, so that if there is a leak it will be immediately contained. All the pipes for transferring oil, and the couplings have been designed to minimise the risk of spills (dry couplings), and under each coupling when fuel is transferred from a ship there is a large container to catch any drops should there be any. All the pumps have deadman switches, and people check the fuel lines and are stationed at each end of the pumping line. If anything is spilt, like over filling a camping stove, there are absorbents in a number of places so that it can be cleaned up straight away and not get into the environment.

For our oil spill exercise we were given a scenario that two fuel drums of petrol had fallen off the JCB loader off the corner of the slipway onto the beach, and were leaking. After marking out a ‘dirty zone’ we set to work.

20120501-P1020123Having first put drum containers over the leaking barrels and upending them to prevent further leakage we put out some floating absorbents, then started to dig a trench to collect any fuel seeping down the beach.

20120501-P1020127Our two booms were inflated and launched to contain any fuel on the water.

20120501-P1020128The ‘fast tank’ was erected to collect contaminated water/fuel.

DSC_0029Here are the absorbent sausages, the boom and the ditch.

DSC_9909Flushing the ‘fuel’ out of the beach into the ditch where it collects and can be pumped into the ‘fast tank’.

20120501-P1020133Water collecting in the ditch.

20120501-P1020130Ernie and Katie setting up the skimmer.

DSC_9958Ernie getting the pump working.

DSC_0015The skimmer floats at the surface to improve the efficiency of it’s collection of oil. Using the orange lines you can pull it around the boomed off area sucking up oil. Once it’s in the ‘fast tank’ the oil/water separates, the oil can then me skimmed off the surface again and put into barrels for recycling.

DSC_0053Disaster averted by team KEP.

Back to base for a debrief, tea, cake and medals!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Starry, starry night

Just a few quick photos from the other night. I was on ‘lates’ so had to stay up, and made use of it being a beautiful night by star gazing for a while.

I took these photos using my 70-200 f/2.8 lens, set on about f3.2, for 13 seconds, and with the iso turned up as much as possible.

20120501-DSC_1872 PanoramaThree photos stitched together, an interesting part of the milky way.

In looking up this section of the night sky in one of our stargazing books I have discovered that this is in fact a photo looking at the centre of our galaxy! The four brighter stars top right are part of Scorpius.

20120501-DSC_1884The Southern Cross

Above and to the left of the Cross is the Coalsack Nebula, it is 600 light years away.

20120501-DSC_1879The Large Magellanic Cloud, the Tarantula Nebula is on it’s right hand side

Having now looked through the star gazing book there are some really cool things I might try and photograph next time we have a clear night. The moon is causing a few issues at the moment though, it’s so bright that it drowns out the detail in the sky, however, being very large at the moment the moon is interesting in itself.