iPhone photography and depth of field

The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) has a very good camera but it’s not a replacement for even a typical point-and-shoot, never mind using it in place of a DSLR.

Cellphone cameras fall short in a few areas. For my day-to-day photography, the two biggest categories are zoom/telephoto photography and depth-of-field control.

There are kludges for telephoto photography – sticking a lens in front of the cellphone lens but by the time you’ve planned ahead and carried the accessories, you are better off pocketing a small point-and-shoot.

iPhone photo, DOF, and tilt-shift
iPhone photo, DOF, and tilt-shift

There are Apps to approximate depth-of-field. One that I’ve used is Tadaa SLR. When used sparingly (middle image), it manages the effect pretty well. When used too much (bottom image), it creates the tilt-shift effect to give things the toy model appearance. There are fun uses for the latter but it doesn’t look natural.

The problem with apps like Tadaa SLR is that they are very time consuming. A typical photo will take 5-10 minutes to get the masking applied and then tweak the settings for the simulated depth.

Still, when you need to get some depth in a cellphone photo, these Apps give you some options.

Spring walk with stereoscopic images

Nick enjoying the sun and breeze

the upper pond

tomato farm irrigation pond

catch basin


tomato stakes

DIY Soda Bar from an old refrigerator

Many pilots with ready access to their hangar and a pension for ‘hangar flying’ will sooner or later contemplate creating a man-cave near their airplane.

My hangar is part of the farmhouse so it doesn’t get much closer than that.

While the obvious choice would be to stock the refrigerator with beer, pilots have a Motto – “eight hours from bottle to throttle”. So what to do with the old refrigerator? How about a Soda Bar!

chalkboard paint on an old refrigerator
chalkboard paint on an old refrigerator

And so the idea was born. I combined an old refrigerator, some soda kegs, and a series of beer taps.

I covered the front of the refrigerator and 1/4″ finished plywood to have a smooth surface for applying chalk board paint. Next, I replaced the door handle with a hand crafted replica of a bucking bar. The taps are installed through the door and there is a CO2 bottle hidden off to the side.

In addition to the sodas on tap, I’m planning to craft brew some carbonated cider (for after the flying day is done).

I’ll also keep ice cream, milk, and real malt in stock for a classic – albeit caloric – refreshment!

I need to work on my art skills so I can create a more colorful logo and descriptions :-)

Designing a better measuring cup

Great design isn’t always about grand things but it is always about the end user.

a 'squeeze to measure' bottle
a 'squeeze to measure' bottle

Consider this design – an integrated measure for chemicals. This commercial sanitizer is used at a ratio of 1oz per 5 gallons. While some containers have devised a measuring cup using the cap, this bottle had an alternate solution – a measured cup built into the bottle, fed from a small filler tube, also integrated into the bottle from the bottom.

To measure 1oz, the user simply opens the cap on the measuring side and squeezes the bottle. The result is internal pressure in the bottle which pushes sanitizer up the tub and into the measure. Then the user pours the pre-measured liquid.

The measuring “cup” has graduations for smaller amount too.

Soda on tap !

perlick_650SS… another chapter in the continuing saga of “soda on tap” …


In our last episode, the protagonist had just given up on the idea having soda in his home pub when he decided to get some sage advice from “the Google”.

“The Google” told our down trodden bar keeper that his woes were well founded but also his situation was self induced. Thankfully, there was science to the rescue. The Google said, “you need pressure at the bottle but not at the tap.

This idea sounded preposterous. The pressure would be the same from start to finish? right? Wrong.

So, the Google pointed me to “the Science Google”. The Science Google said, “CO2 stays in solution with temperature” – translation, “get stuff cold”. Next, the Science Google said, “diameter is area, and small areas are harder to get through than large ones.” Well, yeah. This bar keeper has gotten larger of the years and definitely finds it harder to get through small spaces. Finally, the Science Google said, “hey blockhead, just use 3/16″ line and make it long – say, 15-20 feet”. He went on to say, “or you can just use a flow control tap.”

So, the bar keeper went to the Amazon.com and found a flow control tap. When it arrived, he connected it to about 5 feet of 3/16″ tubing he had laying around, and he attached his custom soda top adapter.

With great trepidation, he adjusted the flow control to zero and then pulled the tap handle. He then adjusted the flow to a gentle run. To his complete surprise and elation, he quickly poured a tasty, effervescent glass of bubbly!


Now our bar keeper is very curious. Could this science be applied to the bar-gun? might it be possible to use a long length of tubing to get the necessary resistance? stay tuned !

DIY soda dispensing bar gun (aka wunderbar)

You’ve likely see a WunderBar or bar gun – a single dispenser for 4 to 12 different beverages. Bartenders use them to dispense many of the mixers they need from water to club soda to cola.

Cornelius brand bar gun and CO2 distributor

Cornelius brand bar gun and CO2 distributor


A typical modern bar gun is connected to a syrup / water / CO2 mixing system. A long time ago, the soda came pre-mixed in 5 gallon stainless “kegs” and the bar gun was just the centralized dispenser.

The DIY home bar can have something similar! In place of 5 gallon kegs, we will use 2 (or 3) liter bottles.

The system consists of a CO2 cylinder and pressure regulator, a distribution manifold, the bar gun, some tubing, and a bit of DIY to create a fitting for soda bottles.

custom brass soda bottle dispenser head

custom brass soda bottle dispenser head


The trick is to create a custom head fitting that lets CO2 into the soda bottle through one tube and forces the soda out through another tube.

The head part consists of a “street tee” fitting with two NPT-to-barb adapters.

To make the unit, a 4″ length of brass tubing is bonded (soldered or using JB Weld) inside one of the NPT adapters. Next, a brass or copper washer is bonded to the threaded neck of the street tee. The unit assembled with Teflon tape so the brass tube runs down the center of the street tee. A hole is drilled into a soda cap just barely large enough for a snug fit when the threaded neck of the street tee is inserted. A neoprene washer is sandwiched between the washer on the street tee and the soda cap. Finally, it is all tightened together with a nut on the inside of the cap, threaded onto the threaded neck of the street tee.

NOTE: If you use 1/8″ NPT hardware you will have plenty of space inside the soda cap. If you use 1/4″ NPT hardware as in this example, things will be tight and sanding or grinding down the NPT nut will be necessary (which is why the nut in the picture looks round with two flat sides).

Someone on the Internet sells plans for $12 this setup. I found all the details by doing an Internet search for “soda bottle mini keg”.

The setup isn’t cheap (the parts for just one soda bottle head fitting is $15US). So, unless you are doing for the experience of building something or you must have all the cool gadgets, I’d just stick to having soda bottles behind your home bar it in you personal Pub Shed.


UPDATE #1: if I were to build these again, I would switch to 1/8″ NPT and find 1/8″ NPT to 1/4″ ID barb fittings. The 1/4″ NPT fittings are fine but getting a 1/4″ NPT fastening nut inside a soda cap requires it to be ground down considerable and for the through-hole to be perfectly centered in the cap. The change to 1/8″ NPT fittings would not change the flow volumes. It would tighten up the tolerance for the copper tube passing through the street tee fitting which would mean it would need to be perfectly centered. For this reason, I would switch to JB Weld rather than soldering the tub into the NPT adapter fitting.

UPDATE #2: It works fine for non-carbonated but not for carbonated sodas. As I suspected, the small channels within a post-mix gun cause nearly all of the carbonation to be forced out of the soda. I tried several CO2 pressures and the best I could achieve is perhaps 25% carbonation in the served glass. This solution is fine for ice tea, water, lemonade, etc but not for carbonated soda. Oddly enough, it would work for liquors by setting the pressure very low. Of course, you’d want to use nitrogen rather than CO2. You might end up with a tiny bit of cross flavor but it would be very small and easy to solve but leaving water on one line and a quick flush between cocktails. Interesting thought: you could use this postmix gun setup and serve any of the cocktails which do not used a carbonated liquid. Or just learn the fancy moves from the movie Cocktail. There are a few suppliers still selling new premix guns. A 5 (or 7) button new premix guns is about $170US.