In the blink of an eye

In a blink of an eye, a lot can happen. A lot of astonishing things happen in a split second, but they are moving too quickly for us to see. High speed photography is the art of recording  just such events.

Depending on the event to be photographed, methods range from use of ultra-short time flash exposures to producing lots of exposures in a split-second, using for example, a strobe light, or a more exotic sound triggered system (useful for popping balloons, gunshot punctures and the like).  A typical camera flash lasts around a few thousandth of a second which is easily quick enough to freeze most anything.  The speed of the camera’s shutter is not really that important provided it is open when the flashes fire – synchronizing the camera shutter opening with the flash firing is the key…as well as deciding when to trip the shutter itself.

In this series of pictures, I constructed a setup in my studio which consisted of an aquarium, two inexpensive speed light flashes, wireless flash triggers, black muslin backdrop, DSLR on a sturdy tripod and various veggies and fruits. I filled the tank brimming with water and set one flash above the surface pointing down and the other below the surface pointing in. The tripod mounted camera (Nikon D7000, 17-70mm lens, ISO100, f18, 1/250sec) was in front of the tank and equipped with a wireless transmitter that would trigger the flashes when the shutter was tripped. The veggies and fruit were dropped from various heights depending on their size and density – I found that limes descend much faster than bell peppers, eggs and coconuts being the speediest.

The lighting angles and intensities of the flashes were adjusted periodically. One should also use a plastic zip-lock bag over the flash units, have plenty of paper towels at hand and check the camera lens after every drop – this technique can be a trifle wet! I also discovered that eggs are super fast and tend to crack upon impact on the bottom of the tank and other materials, such as yogurt just make an awful mess and cloud the water. I was contemplating dropping my small dog in the tank, but he quickly caught wind of my thoughts and beat it out of the studio!

15 responses

  1. eggs and coconuts being the speediest… haha that made me laugh. very cool experiment.

    May 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm

  2. Great shots…I’m glad the dog made a quick get away 🙂

    May 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm

  3. I love high speed photography!

    May 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

  4. Great post!

    May 29, 2012 at 12:07 am

  5. Great shots and thanks for sharing the how to… I think you have a spelling mistake up there though… I think you meant to say black *muslin* backdrop 🙂 lol

    May 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

  6. mmmm very interesting

    May 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  7. chvandergriff

    Very neat. Excellent captures

    May 30, 2012 at 1:12 am

  8. This is most definitely Cool with a capital C. Something I’ve wanted to try for a while. You have made it look simple but I get the feeling it took a lot of effort to make it look this easy but good

    May 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm

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