Monthly Archives: August 2011

The wedding photo booth – part one

It's been more than a month since the wedding, but Amber and I are still frequently reminiscing about how beautiful and great everything turned out and how much fun we (and hopefully our guests) had.  There is so much to share that I'm sure I'll do at least a couple more posts, but tonight I'm going to talk about something we made for the reception that I'm particularly proud of: our wedding photo booth.

First, a little back story: Amber and I have a fondness for photo booths.  I'm not sure how it started, but when we encounter a photo booth, more often than not, we get even more sappy than usual and get some pictures.  They aren't always the best pictures, but they are fun.

france seaworld beach engagement photo booth

save the dateAs you can see, we even used one for our save the date cards.  We enjoy them so much that we thought it would be great to have one at our wedding.  Amber did some research (she did most of the leg work for vendors) and found that it would be pretty expensive to rent one, so I decided to take it on as a DIY project.

I have a netbook that I received as a bonus from work that I figured could be used to run the software.  For printing the pictures, I needed to find a decent photo printer - the printer I had wasn't up for the task.  A good webcam was the only other hardware that would be required.  Of course there was the matter of constructing the booth itself, but I figured we could build a simple frame of some sort and cover it with drapes.  I figured that I could probably do it all (given the components that I had on hand) for about $250.

Part of the reason I wanted to do the project was to give myself a coding project to work on.  I'll do another post going into specifics on this part, but I ended up building a Silverlight application to simplify the webcam integration and to do some animations in the UI without too much effort.  I spent many hours coding and testing the application so that it was relatively easy to use for the most novice computer users among our guests.  I have many pictures like this from these sessions:


And a few like this:

more fun testing

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, after all.

The next step was to plan and build the booth.  It needed to be portable and quick and easy to setup.  I figured that I could do construct a frame with PCV pipe pretty easily.  I thought about it and decided that I should probably prototype with some stuff around the house, just to get my mind going on how it would go together.  After some tinkering and a quick trip to the office supply, this is what I came up with:


As you can see, I constructed my prototype from disposable pen tubes and paperclips.  I misread the number of pens in the package I bought, so I couldn't complete the prototype, but it allowed me to visualize how things would go together and the couplings I would need to buy.  I tried to find these at home depot, but they only carried the standard plumbing connections, elbows and tees, but not the three-way connections for the corners or the four-way connections for the middle back.  Fortunately, Amber in her research found an article by someone that had done something similar (silly me, I didn't look at it until after I did my prototype) that referenced a site where you could mail order the joints I needed.

The next step was to purchase the PVC and somehow get it home and cut.  For those of you who haven't purchased PVC pipe, it is sold in ten foot sections.  Given the length of the pipe and the number of pieces I would need to cut it into, I figured I'd need a friend with power tools and a truck.  While I waited for one of my friends with such equipment at their disposal, I happened to talk to my dad about the project and he suggested that PVC is really quick to cut with just a hacksaw and I could do it in the parking lot if necessary to fit it in the car.

Things were already behind schedule and I was eager to get this part done, so I figured what the hell, and Amber and I went to Home Depot to give it a shot.  We purchased our PVC and were surprised to find that with my back seats folded down, we could fit the ten foot PVC pipe in my two-door Honda Accord!  They went all the way from the back of the car into the passenger seat and on the dash, but all nine pieces fit.

Once we got it home, I started cutting.  Fortunately, my dad was right and the hacksaw made very quick work of the PVC.  I marked the pipe with painter's tape and scored the pipe with a file so I'd get relatively straight cuts. Marking PVC

Scoring Cutting

Initially, I planned on having every section of pipe be uniform and planned on cutting four foot sections, essentially stacking one cube on top of another with a shared edge, but once I started putting things together, it became clear that an eight-foot tall booth was going to be too much.

Construction Construction

Fortunately, since I was cutting two four-foot sections out of the ten foot pipe, I had two foot left over from each pipe.  So the top section became two foot tall, for an overall height of six foot.  Much more manageable.


The next task was covering the booth.  I'd planned on using curtains, but unfortunately, we couldn't find ones that were reasonably inexpensive, that were reasonably opaque and would fit.  After several trips to stores looking for some or an alternative like sheets, we gave in and went to a fabric store to see what we could find.  After dealing with a few surly and non-helpful employees, we found just enough fabric on clearance that met our criteria.  Amber's mom was instrumental for this part, as we don't own a sewing machine and I haven't operated one since junior high.  It turns out that she is a master.  We took the frame down to Maple Valley, and she knocked out the panels in no time flat.


We really couldn't have done it without her help.  We kept one of the curtains we tried as the door.  Here's the finished booth.


This post has obviously turned into a novel, so I'm going to stop here for tonight.  In the next part, I'll write about integrating the components.  In the meantime, here's one last picture: Amber and me in the finished booth at the reception.It worked!

Site issue

I noticed yesterday that my blog was displaying an Umbraco page indicating that there wasn't any content published.  Since I have a lot of content and I hadn't done anything to the blog in about three weeks, I was a bit surprised by this.  Anyway, I logged in and republished the site and everything seems good.

Please let me know if you see any strangeness.

Check back soon - I'm working tonight on the first of about six posts I have planned to do.

Farewell to the Dominican Republic

Heading on our excursionFor those of you who were wondering, tropical storm Emily was pretty much a non-event for us, although it certainly caused problems in other areas of the Dominican Republic.  We were even able to get in our snorkeling excursion Thursday, even though it was kind of a gray day.

After navigating a little language challenge trying to figure out if we were really getting on the right bus, we headed out for the one and only time we actually left the resort during our stay.  We drove the same road we took from the airport to a place called Dolphin Explorer.

The first part of the Dolphin Explorer experience was seeing the tigers and posing with a parrot for a picture or two.  Because when you think marine life, you naturally think that tigers and parrots are going to be a part of the experience.Tiger!


Pretty girl. And the parot is kind of cute too.

Then they had us watch a "safety" video.  Safety first. Or at least second or third.

You can't see them, but to the left and right of our little area are two other partitions where they have videos blaring in other languages.  The overall result is that no one can actually understand any of the videos.  We obviously lived to tell the tale, so I guess it worked anyway.

Soon enough, we were swimming with some actual marine life.Sea lions are cool.


The ray.

After frolicking with the Sea Lions and Rays for a bit, we loaded up on a boat and headed out to snorkel.  As you can see, they had us wearing life vests the whole time we were in deep water, but I don't really think it was necessary.  The water there is so salty, it's hard not to float on the surface.  I might feel differently if I wasn't wearing one at the time, but they seemed to get in the way a little.

Thanks to our great friends Anne and Kevin, we had a dry bag to put a camera in, so we have some pictures and video from the water.  When people realized that it was Amber's iPhone in the bag (our cameras didn't quite fit), we got quizzical looks and queries in several languages asking (we think) whether we were sure that we wanted to risk such a valuable piece of technology.  We had tested it in the pool, but it was still a little worrisome to take it in the water.  Fortunately, it worked perfectly.


Snorkeling Who you lookin' at?

The video is probably more fun to look at, but I need to do some editing before I put that up.  The water was pretty clear, but as you can see, it was a little dark out that day, so we couldn't see very far.  Still, it was cool to see the coral and the few fish that were around and we had a fun time.  I'm definitely looking forward to another snorkeling adventure at some future time.

After snorkeling, they took the boat into what they called a natural pool, where we hung around in the shallow water drinking and lounging in the water for a while.

Finally, more lounging time.Finally, more lounging time.

I didn't realize it at the time, but after we got back on board, the boat turned into the set of a rap video.  Everyone was drinking and dancing - the only elements that were missing were the Cristal champagne and the rappers.

The next day, Amber and I bid farewell to Punta Cana.  Our trip was fun and relaxing and everything we wanted in our honeymoon.

My Sweetie and me.

More Dispatches from Punta Cana

Amber and I are still on our honeymoon and having a lot of fun relaxing in the sun by the pool or at the beach.  I'm actually mostly relaxing in the warm shade because I do burn if I'm not careful.  I have evidence of this as despite my best efforts, I managed to burn my shoulders lightly.  I'm really not complaining, mind you.  It's been great.  Here's what the view has been like most of the time.

view from lounging

We have been taking breaks from our lounging efforts to take dips in the adjacent water, be it pool or ocean, and seek out sustenance.  We've even mustered the energy to do a couple more daring activities, including our paragliding adventure.


As you can see, Amber and I did a tandem glide and it was smiles all around (including our chute).  It was kind of cool and fun, but also a little scary for me.  I have a fear of falling and I don't think I was well seated in the harness, so I think I could have enjoyed it more.  I'll give it another try some other time before adding it to my "never again" list.

We are taking a break right now from our lounging outside to lounge a little inside.  It's been raining off and on today, but mostly not enough to have to be inside, especially if you are in the pool and wet anyway.  Right now, however, it appears to be really coming down.  It turns out that Tropical Storm Emily might be headed our way.  We're hoping for good weather as we've signed up for a snorkeling excursion.  It's already been bumped once due to low visibility.  Hopefully we'll still get to do it this trip.

Even if we don't manage to do our snorkeling excursion, this trip has been excellent.  We had a romantic dinner on the beach Sunday night that was unforgettable.  Best view ever.

Our table

I'll spare you most of the sappier pictures, but here's just one.

Dining on the beach with my Sweetie