High speed photography

High speed photography

I have been working on high speed photography for quite some time now. Very nice to do and certainly spectacular when you look at the results.
Before I explain how the pictures come about, I must mention that you need a suitable venue / space and should make a relatively small investment in hardware.

What is high speed photography anyway?

High speed photography is photographing objects that move at high speed.
This is of course a broad concept because if you stand next to a highway to photograph cars rushing past is that high speed photography or do you have to capture F1 cars on a circuit?
There is of course a considerable difference in speed between the two, but when I talk about high speed, I am really talking about HIGH SPEED …… So extreme speeds  ….
In short, speeds that far exceed those of an F1 car.

Years ago when I visited a circuit I thought that this was already reasonably high speed.
Camera shutter speed on position fast (1/1000 or faster) to freeze everything or move the camera with the car with which the car is sharp on the photo and the environment blurred.
Nice pictures that show the speed of the car well, but not the highspeed where I’m thinking of.

Passing F1 car

Drop photography is also a kind of high speed. Photograph a falling drop at the right time with a very short shutter speed and good exposure.
Depending on the size, a water drop will reach about 10 m/sec (~ 36 km/h).
I’m talking about a drop of about 2mm in diameter here. This is still fine with a standard camera though a drop is a lot smaller than an F1 car

Falling drops

The smaller the object, the harder it is to get a clear picture of it.
A Boeing 747 that passes by with 250 km/h will be easier to focus on the photo than a drop of 2 mm with 36 km/h. In addition, the distance to the object also counts.
Drop photography is therefore quite challenging and I still have a lot of fun with it, but I wanted to make it even more extreme …

If we look at a popping balloon then you will see that it bursts apart in a fraction of a second. In fact, a tightly inflated balloon that pops has a speed far above 400 m/sec (1440 km/h).
This is already a lot harder to photograph.
A good DSLR camera has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000.
With this you can shoot an object sharply up to a speed of say 600 km/h (~ 166 m/sec) if the object is not too small and you can also take sufficient distance from the object.
In addition, with small objects it is also difficult to press the shutter button at the right moment … In short, many challenges …

It is I think clear that with a shutter speed of 1/8000 you cannot take highspeed photos.
In addition, it is also challenging (read impossible) to press the shutter release button of your camera at the right time.
If you want to shoot nice pictures, you can use a speedlight flash or if you really have too much money a studio flash with a very short exposure time …
There are studio flashes available that have an exposure time of 1 / 60,000, but they are reasonable high priced and not everyone has an elastic wallet …
If you already own a camera and a separate speedlight flash, you are already well on your way.

What do you need for high speed photography?

  • Camera (DSLR or compact camera of reasonable quality)
  • Lens with a focal length between 70 and 200mm
  • 1 or 2 speedlight flashes
  • A trigger that responds to sound, infrared …. (I use a Nero Trigger myself)
  • Remote for your camera
  • A space that you can make dark
  • Items that may be broken
  • Something that can destroy your stuff
  • Patience

The trick

First of all, you should understand that something that you shoot with a rifle or something similar will move so fast that it will not freeze with the shutter speed of the camera.
A bullet from an air rifle already reaches a speed of 350 m/sec (~ 1250 km/h) and a bullet from a firearm goes at least 800 m/sec (~ 2900 km/h)
The only thing you can use to freeze your object is light, flash light to be precise. Flash light from the speedlight flash is much faster (1/40,000) than the shutter speed of a camera (1/8000 as described above).

If necessary, you can use two strobes to illuminate your item, just at the right time, so that you get beautiful sharp action shots.
Now you can try to time yourself but but take it from me that this will be an impossible task. For this you use a trigger to which the speedlight flash is connected.
The trigger registers the sound of for example a shot and then lets the strobes go off with a preset delay time. (Delay time is the time between the shot (bang) and that the object is pierced by the bullet).
Now there is only the problem that your camera also has to take the photo just when the strobes are going off. That is also something that you yourself can not possibly time. However, this is very easy to solve by using a slow shutter speed.
You are in a dark room so your shutter can be open for a relatively long time without a picture being taken. For example, you can set your camera to “bulb” and use a remote control to determine how long the shutter needs to stay open.
The flash fires with a very short exposure time (1/40,000 or shorter) which illuminates the object and that makes/takes the photo.

Should it have aroused your interest to do this, keep a close eye on a number of things …
Safety, especially if you are going to shoot bullets through objects, causing shards and the like to fly in all directions.
This can damage your equipment but worse it can injure you … Always wear safety glasses and clothing that covers your body as much as possible.
Take as much distance from the object you are about to shoot.
Make sure that the bullet is “caught” by a number of planks covered with foam so that bouncing is reduced.
Shoot only at objects that are not too hard and on which the bullet cannot ricochet and go its own way.
The room does not stay clean so you have a job afterwards which people don’t see in the picture ..

I can go into much further detail but that makes the blog pages long.

Do you like highspeed photos but not the interest to experiment yourself, keep an eye on this site or my FB page …New highspeed photos will certainly fly by here ….

Handtekening Chris