with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Highspeed Photography

Waterfall, Valdez, Alaska, photographed for 2 seconds, photograph by Brent VanFossenAs nature photographers, we spend the majority of our time with our cameras on tripods photographing our subjects in low light in the early mornings and late afternoons, with a FAST shutterspeed of 250 impressing us. We’re more often at the moderate end of 1 second to 1/60th of a second, or with images like this waterfall in Valdez, Alaska, an exposure lasting two seconds.

We recently stumbled across an technical site from Belgium (we think) with some of the pages translated into English on Highspeed Photography Techniques. Among the amazing technical examples, there is firing a bullet through a string, water droplet “about to land” on a pointed nail, a hammer slamming a lightbulb, and more with bullets and water droplets captured at incredible high speeds “in the moment of action” using simple but amazing equipment and techniques. In one example, a bullet is photographed passing through a soap bubble.

To experiment with highspeed objects requires a very special technique. A perfect synchronization between the moving object and the actual taking of the photograph is needed. We talk about highspeed photography when we can’t see the fast movement with our eyes. It’s very difficult to see a fired bullet and even more difficult to take a photograph of it exactly at the moment it comes out of an object.

In this section you’ll be able to have a look at the observations and the actual taking of the pictures. A very fascinating technique and less difficult than most of you might think. This technique, which requires an exact control, gives you a fair number of good shots. They aren’t just lucky shots but a determined manner of taking pictures.

The site is set up in frames, which hampers navigation a little. Click on the linked example title on the left and then click INSIDE the frame of the actual text to scroll up and down and read the content.

The photographs are meant to be examples rather than beautiful works of art, and they show the set up and equipment being used to help you learn about the technique and possibly do it yourself.

Fascinating. We have a new appreciation for SLOW shutter speeds now.

One Comment

  • Posted September 29, 2005 at 23:22 | Permalink

    high-speed photography is a complicated specialty – Something I have been working with for many years now. Much of the gear is custom built and difficult to use, especially in a field setting.

    I have hacked my 20d to work with a high-speed system, and managed to get some pretty cool results working with insects and bats while working with biologists and other specialists.

    In the days of film this was especially challenging. Events that I was photographing would occur so quickly I had no way to determine if I had secured an image until my film was back from the lab – several days later. Now with images immediatley down loading to my laptop I can make instant adjustments and fine tune images to a high degree.

    Take a look http://www.oregonwild.com/ViewingPage1.html



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