Shooting fast motion – Three different techniques explained

The guys from DigitalRev TV have put together a mini series of videos about shooting different fast-moving objects using different techniques. This is a really fascinating genre of photography, but it is also a genre that you may fail miserably at if you do not have the required know-how. The main difficulty is obviously to freeze the motion and eliminate motion blur despite the fact that objects move fast. But it is equally important to synchronize your shooting properly with the fast-speed event you want to photograph.

As always, there are different scenarios and subjects that require different techniques, and there are different ways to tackle these problems, ranging from a brute-force approach exploiting the fast burst-mode of your camera, via using ridiculously expensive high-speed flashes all the way to a clever low-cost sensor-driven approach. Here are the three techniques explained in detail by the DigitalRev guys in their Speed Shooter series.

Part 1: Shooting flames in burst mode

This technique requires some DIY apparatus for creating the flames at a safe distance. Photographically, the speed of this event is the least challenging of the three as the flames in the dust explosions used here move relatively slowly. So, the logical approach is to use a camera with a fast burst mode (Nikon D4 at 11fps in this case) and just shoot continuously while the flames develop. Light is not an issue as the subject itself emits enough of it.

Part 2: Shooting water splashes with high-end studio flashes

The second scenario is a bit trickier as water splashes can move fairly fast. This requires a lot of light, and it requires a very fast exposure to freeze the water in mid-air. The approach taken here is to use the Broncolor Scoro S 3200 RFS 2 Power Pack which can produce flashes that only last for 1/10,000 of a second at a rate of 10 flashes per second. But before you get out your credit card, think twice. This thingy will cost you more than $13,000.

Also, the effort required to protect your studio and camera equipment from the water might be a bit of a show-stopper for you. But nevertheless, this is a good indication of what’s possible if money and time is not a factor.

Part 3: Shooting shattering objects using a sound sensor

Finally, the guys from DigitalRev TV go on to photograph objects they shatter with a golf club (or similar devices). While the speed involved here seems like the fastest, the equipment used is actually the cheapest: An entry-level DSLR, a standard lens and a typical speedlight that you may also have at home. The trick that makes consistent high-speed photography possible with this equipment is a smart phone app that can trigger your camera based on different events. In this case, the sound of the shattering objects is detected by the app which then triggers the camera (and therefore also the flash).

If you are planning on trying your hand at this type of photography and you do not have the $6,000 + $13,000 for a Nikon D4 and a Broncolor high-speed flash unit, this may be your best bet.

[via DigitalRev TV]
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