Epson Stylus Pro 4900 – Fixed Print Head Clog Update

Since my last post concerning my Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printer explaining my exasperating print head clogging issues and my past success at clearing them I am sorry to say that ultimately the print head is now irretrievably clogged, or possibly that my PK/MK portion of the head is partially electronically dead and the portions that won’t print are growing in size. The banding issues are quite noticeable, especially in B&W prints.

This is after about a three month hiatus since my last time printing, after which I put it away without any ink in the system. I left it loaded with my cleaning cartridges filled with cleaning fluid consisting of Windex. I think that it might be OK to use Windex as a cleaning agent but it probably is not very wise to leave the print head in contact with it for long periods of time. Possibly filtered distilled water may be a better alternative. Also another possible alternative may be Conecolors’ cleaning fluid, although considerably more expensive.

I am now left with a choice, do I dump the printer in a landfill or do I buy a new printhead? The cheapest printhead that I found was about $1400 US and from unknown offshore sources an with me providing the labor, a new printer would be about $1700 while Epson service will charge about $1900 to fix it. This would be with the knowledge that the new printhead will, in all likelihood, also be plagued with clogging problems. It seems as if the Epson SP 4900 printhead has a lifetime ranging from a few hundred pages to, at most, a few years. I already have a very expensive arsenal of cleaning equipment, resetting tools and about 500 mL of each ink color in reserve that, when all is said and done, are worth well over $1000 for the SP 4900.

However, I am leaning towards Cannon’s professional 17″ printer with twelve pigmented inks (and no f-ing switching between matt and photo black inks!) which is also about $1700. I know that this Cannon printer has had some printhead issues as well but the heads are split in two with their costs, from known reliable sources, are under $500. I searched the web to find out the problems with this printer and have only come across about 1/10th the issues as with Epson’s. I’m weighing the issues and would appreciate any one’s, who has experience with the Cannon Pro line, input who could inform me about Cannon’s reliability as it compares to Epson’s line of X900 printers.

Another alternative would be to use an outside printshop and leave the headaches to them but as I learned in dealing with National Geographic there is a lot to say about having total control of the printing process.

Destinations of a Lifetime

Update, The book has now been published and is selling at #1 in Amazon’s Travel/Pictorial seller’s list. Unfortunately the image, as is now published, turned out to have been oversaturated, especially the reds. I should have insisted on the conversion of my colorspace used in my printer/paper to National Geographic’s printers colorspace. Oh well, live and learn. And… holy crap! It is pretty damn cool to see one of my images in print in such a well respected National Geographic publication. I think my dad, who taught me basic photography and darkroom practices, would be proud since he was a huge fan of National Geographic.

By the way the entire book is pretty darn cool and very well done, I definitely recommend buying it.

Previously post:

I’ve been honored by National Geographic by selecting one of my images to be published as a two page spread in their upcoming book  Places of a Lifetime . It should be available in late October, but Amazon is now accepting preorders.


2015 Fall Colors

This year the fall colors along the St Croix River were, although still spectacular, somewhat subdued. Still there were a few backwater areas that were worth shooting. Here is one panorama:

_DSC8395 Panorama_b_3_ps

The HWY 36 bridge construction still continues a year later, note that I now am using an architectural lens (Nikon 24mm f2.8 PCE) with tilt-shift capabilities and the images now show the bridge structures as actually parallel rather than pointing inwards. This is now my favorite lens.



Enjoying the last probable 85 degree day this year with some good friends:

Perseids Bust

Perseids meteor shower was a bust for me. Three hours and I only saw three meteors that were out of view of my camera, a full frame camera with a 17mm lens. Here is one shot, actually about one-hundred-eighty twenty-second exposure shots stacked into a single frame for a total exposure time of about one hour. This makes what is called a star trail. A few aircraft and a few satellites but, unfortunately, no meteors. I gave up about 2:30 am when the boredom overcame my ability to stay awake :-(


First Successful Pano From My Multi-Rotors!

360 degree panorama of the End of the Ash River Trail: (click on it for a larger image)

_DSC2470 Panorama_ps

If you have been following me at all concerning my adventures into multi-rotor platforms for photography you may already know that I was pursuing a rock steady stable platform from which to take aerial photography shots from. Videography is definitely a back burner issue with me, my main interest is with still photography.

My initial disappointment was with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision in that the camera was rather poor quality, at least when measured against professional photographic equipment. The dynamic range was low, the lens was too wide an angle, the fisheye aspects were unacceptable, and worse the images from this camera were difficult at best to correct for image distortion.

I almost immediately sought out alternatives, the Go-Pro was also unacceptable to me since it also has a pronounced fisheye look to its images. Initially I adapted my Nikon J1 camera to the Phantom but found that it was simply too heavy to be safely flown with the Phantom. After exploring other avenues I found that I would have to spend over five grand to get a decent platform that could safely lift my Nikon J1, let alone my intended camera, my Nikon D800.

I was searching for a cost friendly alternative so I first built a quad using DJI’s E800 motor/ESC combination but found that these motors don’t come close to their advertised thrust in their “Tuned Propulsion System” it should, in all honesty, be called the Detuned Propulsion System. So I set out to build my hexacopter.

I was having troubles tuning the necessary vibration isolators to prevent the inevitable resolution robbing vibrations away from the camera. I was even looking to scrap my drone program entirely in favor of a balloon based system which has very little or no vibrations at all.

Then it dawned on me after a test flight. I have used tie cord as a safety backup in case the vibration isolators would become separated from the camera platform and after a previous hard landing all four indeed became detached. The next flight I forgot to reattach the isolators so the platform was hanging by the tie cord loops. The four tie cord loops were not all equal in length so the camera was flown at a ten degree, or so, tilt angle. After landing and giving my self a Homer Simpson DUH! I decided to download the flashcard and see what I got.


To my surprise the sharpest images that I have taken to this day from any aerial platform! That was the key! For the first time I was able to stitch a decent ten image panorama together! The problem with fisheye lenses is that they don’t stitch into decent quality images very well. Even though the camera was tilted and the copter wavered around due to both the normal GPS wondering and well as the ten to twenty MPH gusty breezes my stitching program, PtGui Pro,  was able to easily stitch the ten images together. The other main problem with this particular panorama is that I did not take the images with enough overlap. While there are some areas of the image that certainly need improvement it is the IMAGE RESOLUTION that beats all previous images taken from any ariel platform, at least by myself!

Next to stabilize it even more I will be looking into a downward facing stabilization camera to supplement the GPS for position hold as well as an ultrasonic range finder to supplement the altitude hold function. Using vibration isolators between the camera platform and then suspending the gimbal from the airframe with tie cord is a perfect answer for total vibration isolation for still imagery, while this is obviously not a very good solution for videography – well I really don’t care that much about moving pictures anyway 😉

Update: I may have spoken too soon when suggesting that tie cord may not work for video, here is a video taken with the exact same setup as was used for my stitched pano:

You can clearly see the difficulties in taking a series of still images to stitch together for a pano, the copter is flailing around in the wind. Most of the jitteriness seen in the above video would be minimized when a two axis stabilizing gimbal is utilized. Note that the video from the Nikon J1 is not very good to begin with, compared to the D800, slow panning on a stationary tripod results in marked  loss of resolution, not seen at all in this video. I am becoming convinced that a third axis gimbal motor may be necessary due to the unreliably unstable rotation control of the hexacopter is around the z-axis, especially when windy. Yup, retractable landing gear and a third axis gimbal motor may ultimately be necessary.

PixHawk HexCopter Powered by DJI E800 Tuned Propulsion System

Well here it is, my first incarnation prototype for a HexCopter. I have to say that a hex handles so much nicer than a quad, much more stable and predictable. This version weighs about 11 lb. (5 kg) or about 830 g/motor or just 30 g above DJI’s recommended 800 g/motor. The total maximum flight time, with an 10,000 mAh battery, was just under 20 min. with the final battery voltage of 21.35 Volts. The DJI ESC’s started giving yellow LED signals with a rapid loss of altitude afterwords. Using a Return To Launch (RTL) voltage of 22.2V should give ample reserve RTL time for a useful flight time of about fifteen minutes. Update: My battery charger reported that it took 10,325 mAh to recharge the battery.

There are several areas where weight can be shaved to allow for the additional weight for my Nikon D800. I am still fine tuning the vibration isolators for my Nikon J1 camera, there is no gimbal motors used at this time. If you look closely at the video the Nikon J1 is having severe problems with the autofocus, I’m probably going to have to give up and simply set the focus manually to infinity, as well as resort to using manual or aperture exposure modes, and forget about 360 degree pano shots, especially near sunrise or sunsets.

I’m not yet sure if I need to reduce the number of isolators, I’m currently using six DJI phantom isolators. I bought isolators for DJI larger gimbals but I found that these were way too stiff for the Nikon J1, although those are probably the ones I will need to use for my D800.


For all of those paranoid morons who are chomping at the bit to shoot down a drone I added an example of just how close a typical drone used by an amateur photographer would have to be to get any meaningful images. All of you dipsticks should realize that only a multi-million dollar military grade drone will be able to count the pimples on your nude sunbathing girlfriend/wives butt-cheeks, and from an altitude higher than you will ever be able to see or hear it from, let alone, shoot it down from 😉