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!
Here we show you 30 fascinating high-speed photographs taken by photographers whose attempts are successful and brilliant.