Nov 18 2012

Interfacing the Arduino to the Taos TCS3414 via I2C, continued

By Max

Taos TCS3414

November, so soon!  I kind of had to put this one down for awhile and work on things that were not laptop-centric, I just was spending too much time in front of a computer screen.  Luckily, Tiuri De Jong was on the case, and he has developed the proof-of-concept code I posted earlier into a fully-working demonstration.

I uploaded it to my Arduino, and I’m getting stable results with an apparently linear response, although the specific numerical values themselves aren’t particularly meaningful.    For example, under my workbench lamp that I metered at about 40fc and has a CCT of 5000K, it measured 290fc at 3500K.  I get that the part would require calibration before it would be useful, but it’s strange to me that it would be off by 1500K color temperature and a factor of 5 for illuminance, out of the box?  I’d be interested to know if anyone else has a similar experience.

What I’m working on now is measuring the values given by the TCS3414 vs. a known accurate illuminance and color temperature meter, to tell if the deviation from true value is a constant, or a linear function, or what.  I’ve verified that the calculations are done correctly in the code per the datasheet.

But in the meantime, it seems like a shame to deprive everyone else of Tiuri De Jong’s complete and, might I add, lucidly written code, so it may be downloaded here:

2012-11-18 Light Meter Code Rev5

I’ve also posted the code in full after the jump.

Continue reading “Interfacing the Arduino to the Taos TCS3414 via I2C, continued” »

Oct 26 2012

Pinhole Camera – Indiana Sand Dunes

By Max

So, my inimiatable Aunt Carol rented a house on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  That’s her above, in red.  I took the pinhole camera I posted about earlier along for the week.  It was the last week of summer, and the days were still just warm enough to swim.

We wandered on the lakeshore,

Decomposing fish.

And visited friends:

Tom, McKalen (sp?), my Mom

We also drove around Gary, IN:

Burned out library, Gary, IN

Double exposure, library interior with U.S. Steel plant.

Not to represent the place as a wasteland or something, the library just had too many great angles not to photograph.  As it happens there is a larger, modern library nearby.

We also went into Chicago for a day.

We also ate lots of things:

The Indiana/Michigan sky was nonstop amazing.

Sunset, false color provided by my scanner firmware freaking out.

Sunset, last day of the trip.

Sep 29 2012

Pinhole Camera – Yosemite

By Max

Left: Sequoias. Right: My apartment

Travel+Photography: I took the pinhole camera I made backpacking in Yosemite National Park./

Ostrander Lake, headwaters of Bridalveil Creek.

Pine cones on the forest floor.

Ghost town near the park entrance.

Sunset reflecting in the lake.

And some back in San Francisco:

Double exposure with rainbow and night scenes.

Open shutter, 10 minute exposure while walking.

Coming whenever I get around to scanning them:  Chicago!

Aug 26 2012

Pinhole camera — First shots

By Max

haha, oh god.  So I just started a new job, and I’m the incoming treasurer for the IES SF section, and I’m in submittals on the library project, and I’m taking my LC exam this fall, and I’ve been dating some, and my D&D campaign has started up again so I’ve got that prep time every week in addition to game night…  things are going really, really well for me right now but I don’t have a lot of time for personal artistic pursuits, and also everything I’ve been working on has been pretty laptopy lately.  So I decided what I really needed was some immediate gratification, in a project I could finish in a weekend with a minimum of planning.

Test-fitting the film, before the film advance mechanism was finished, and the whole thing was painted flat black inside.

I went shopping for the cookie tin that became the camera body Saturday morning, and was scrambled to finish it up before I ran out of light on Sunday.  I finished about 45 minutes before dusk, loaded up a roll of film, and started walking East, through Union Square and down to the Embarcadero.  The shot at the top of the post is the last one on the roll, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, with the fogline rolling into the East Bay.

And above is the first picture I took.  A selfie!  I spent some time today building a smaller aperture, which should fix the blurry problem.  I also need a better attachment to the tripod, the one I tried first is pretty wobbly.   I’d kind of stopped taking pictures of things because I’m just kind of burned out on digital photography right now, but this has been really fun and creative.

Oh, hey, if you have any tips about how to get a nice round hole .29 mm in diameter, leave me a comment!

Sunday at Cup a’ Joes, one of the enduring loves in my life.


Jun 15 2012

Friday Night Music

By Max

So? Paul Krugman does it.


Jun 7 2012

Interfacing the Arduino to the Taos TCS3414 via I2C

By Max

Well, this was a productive night:  I’ve been working with the Taos TCS3414, which is a light and RGB color sensor.  It’s a tiny little guy, about 2.5 x 3.5 mm I would guess, and shown above is mounted on breakout boards.  I just had a breakthrough night with it, getting it to correctly return values from the sensors, so I thought I’d share my preliminary code for the benefit of all.

Update: better code here!

Helpful tips:

  • The TCS3414 is I2C, whereas the TCS3404 uses the similar SMBus.  The Atmega 328 can do both, but I2C is easier for reasons of both hardware and libraries, so get the TCS3414.
  • I2C is on analog pins 4 and 5, not digital pins 4 and 5.
  • It’s a 3.3V device, so make sure you power it via the 3V output on the Arduino, not the 5V output.  It draws 9ma max, so the 50ma capacity via Arduino is plenty.
  • Similarly, you’ll need to level shift 5V bidirectionally to 3V from the Arduino to the sensor, so google logic level converters.  I used a pair of NTE491 MOSFETs.

Here’s what my hardware looks like (note, my breakout board pins aren’t the same layout as the sensor):

That all being said, here’s my (working concept only) code!:

// 6 June 2012


int ledPin = 13; // LED connected to digital pin 13

byte receivedVal = 0x00;

unsigned int clearLow = 0;
unsigned int clearHigh = 0;

void setup()
// initialize the digital pin as an output:
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);

// join i2c bus (address optional for master)

Serial.write("Serial started" "\n");

digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // set the LED on

Wire.write(0x03); // Turn the device on and enable ADC

Wire.beginTransmission(0x39); // Request confirmation
receivedVal =;

if (receivedVal == 0x03) {
Serial.write("ADC Started" "\n");
else {
Serial.write("Connect to sensor failed with code: ");
Serial.println(receivedVal, DEC);

delay(50); // wait for a moment to allow ADC to initialize
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // set the LED off

void loop() {

Wire.beginTransmission(0x39); // Request confirmation
clearLow =;
clearHigh =;

clearHigh = (clearHigh * 256) + clearLow;

Serial.println(clearHigh, DEC);


If you’ve done it right, it should start spitting out meaningless numbers, that decrease when you hold your hand over the sensor!  More to come on this topic soon!

May 19 2012

An Overview of Daylighting Metrics, with Examples

By Max

A visualization of Continuous Daylight Autonomy (cDA)

Why Daylighting: As an (electrical) lighting designer, daylighting is exciting to me for a lot of reasons.  There are energy conservation reasons, of course–40% of the electricity consumption in commercial spaces is lighting, and daylight harvesting is a mostly untapped method of reducing that sum.  There is evidence that a connection to the outside world is beneficial to the happiness and productivity of the occupants, such as the research conducted by the Heschong Mahone Group on classrooms and commercial office spaces.  And, artistically, there’s a tremendous potential to create dynamic sculptures using the sun and building form, and to contribute to the narrative of the architecture.

Know your sDA from your aSE: I just got back from attending the Daylighting Institute at the 2012 Lightfair, which if you have a chance to go is really worth your time.  As the LEED sustainable building program becomes the default for high-profile projects, it is pushing daylighting design from the provenance of academic research and a few specialty firms out into the mainstream of standard architectural practice.

Many of the seminars this year revolved around the various daylighting metrics available, whether moment-in-time based metrics such as that found in LEED 2.2, to dynamic metrics such as daylight autonomy (DA), useful daylight illuminace (UDI), and spatial daylight autonomy (sDA).  I thought a quick reference guide to the various ways of measuring daylight within the space, with examples, might come in handy for people like myself that are trying to get a handle on all this.  The metrics are in approximate order of how established they are within the design community, with metrics that are still under active development like Spatial Daylight Autonomy towards the end.  I’ve also created a generic example space to help explain the concepts.

The example space, rendered in AGI

Continue reading “An Overview of Daylighting Metrics, with Examples” »

Apr 29 2012

Fool for Love with Boxcar Theater Company

By Max

Here are some pictures from a production of Fool for Love that I designed with Boxcar Theater Company.  What’s notable about this production is that I made all of the lighting fixtures.  As a site-specific piece, we didn’t want to introduce anything into the performance space that didn’t belong there, such as theatrical lighting equipment.  So I modified practical lighting fixtures to work for theatrical purposes.  The result was a performance that was truly without a proscenium frame, more raw and intimate than theater, even good theater, is usually.  Additional pictures after the break.

Continue reading “Fool for Love with Boxcar Theater Company” »

Mar 3 2012

A Redesign for

By Max

I am getting to be alright at this WordPress stuff: I’ve just completed a redesign of, which is my theatrical lighting design portfolio.  It’s the same content (for now, I have some new shows to put up there as well), but the pictures are larger and the layout is much nicer.
I’m also working on getting my architectural lighting design stuff up on the web, that will happen soon-ish.  In the meantime, if there’s anything you find seems broken or hard to use, do drop me a line!

Mar 3 2012

True West with Boxcar Theater Company

By Max

Click to enlarge.

Here is something you can do on Friday:  Now playing at the Hyde Street Studios with Boxcar Theater company, True West by Sam Shepard.  This is the first of two plays I’m designing with Boxcar Theater company, and it’s a great show, and I’m very happy with the design.  I’ll do a writeup for it on my portfolio site.

True West runs through April 7 and I hope you can make it.  More information here.