High speed photography is a technique that photographers use to capture an action that happens in a fraction of a second. Imagine capturing a picture of a bullet going through a balloon filled with water; Even the fastest digital camera you could buy wouldn't be sufficient.
Cameras can have a shutter speed as fast as 1/4000 of a second. Pretty fast huh? But not fast enough! At this speed, the bullet would certainly appear blurry because of its speed.
Even though, if you had a very fast camera, you would have to press the shutter at a very precise time to be able to capture what you want. Some very patient photographers did try that, but you end up taking maybe thousands of pictures to get a correct one.
So, how do we do it?
What we need, is to capture an action as fast as 1/1.000.000 seconds. Yes, one millionth of a second. Or microsecond. (µs)
The setup is very simple: we place our subject in a darkroom, take a picture for about one or two seconds of exposure time, and it's during this time, that we will trigger a flash that will illuminate our subject for a very short period of time, freezing the action on the sensor of the camera.
A flash, or a strobe as we more commonly call them, has got different power settings. The lower the setting, the faster the duration of light will be. For example, a Sigma EF-500, at its lower setting of 1/128th of its maximum power, will emit light for a duration of 32.8 µs which would be equal to an exposure setting of 1/32800 seconds or 0.0000328 seconds. This is fast!
The last trick, is to have a very cheap home-built, or very expansive professional flash trigger.
There are sound triggers, that will trigger your flash when they hear a sound, for example, your BB gun, or your light bulb exploding, then you just have to make a few trials to set a delay to have your picture taken every time at the same precise time.
There are other triggers, that will trigger the light when an object goes through an infra-red beam or photogate. That would be used for the picture of a drop of water or other liquids, splashing on fruits, or in water.
High speed photography is more accessible than you think, all you need is a digital camera with manual settings, a strobe (or more!), a sound or photogate trigger, a bit of patience, and plenty of imagination!
Contributed by : Olivier Egloff
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Here we show you 30 fascinating high-speed photographs taken by photographers whose attempts are successful and brilliant.
Too Fast Too Soon?
What do you think of these photographs? Share with us your view of what you think high-speed photography is. Do you have any other high-speed photographs you would like to share?