Strobocopic High Speed Photography
Throughout history there have been great examples of images that reveal aspects of the physical world that you could never see without some breakthrough photographic technology. From the pioneering work of Eadweard Muybridge to microscopic particles through an electron microscope. From time lapse exposures, to images from Hubble telescope, the Mars Rover and stop action photography.
Here is a nuclear explosion photographed by Rapatronic camera less than 1 millisecond after detonation. This was captured when the fireball was about 20 meters in diameter!
High speed photography in commercial use
Stop action photography is also a unique niche in the commercial photo world. We've seen it used to capture the dynamic properties of a product, or the interaction of the product with a subject (like a sports figure). It can bring a sculptural vision to a splash of milk in a cereal bowl or ice cubes dropped into a glass of scotch.
The vast majority of high speed image capture is now done with strobes. The flash of a high speed strobe can be far shorter than the fastest shutter speeds. Harold Edgerton is generally credited with pioneering the use of the stroboscope to freeze fast motion. The trick is how to trigger the strobe. There are two main methods used by the photo pros: Laser and Sound.
(strobe triggered by compressed air blown into glass)
It's OK to play with your food.
You begin the fun:
- cue the laser (or sound sensor) to trigger the strobe when desired action occurs (ice hits water, milk splashes, glass breaks, etc)
- factor in some milliseconds of delay
- turn off the ambient lights to ensure the subject is only lit by the flash
- clean up mess and repeat
- take 8-20 best shots and create a Photoshop™ composite for client
There is a great Flickr group site dedicated to 1/10000th flash or shorter, It has images, discussions and more.
(Splash images courtesy Michelle Havens)