Mark Richards Techniques High-Speed Flash Photography
High-Speed Flash Photography
In the past, high-speed photography was limited to research institutions and a small select group of individuals who built or modified their own equipment. Practitioners had to be knowledgeable in areas such as high-voltage electronics and circuit design. Now, some 100 years after the advent of high-speed photography (the process of capturing an exposure faster than 1⁄10,000 second), the equipment has become greatly simplified and within the price range of the serious photographer.

One of the shots art directors commonly request (and use) is an object dropping into water. The object is usually a featured product and the art director wants to show its relationship to water and add some excitement. A falling object traps air as it moves into water, and only a high-speed flash will capture this with a minimum of blur. This is a fairly simple shot that novice high-speed photographers can gain a lot of experience by trying.

I use a 40-gallon fish tank from the local pet store. Ideally the tank should be much larger, but a smaller one has an important advantage: The water needs to be changed every few dozen shots, depending on how much dust collects in it, and a smaller tank is much easier to clean. The tank should be located close to a sink, and water should not be left in the tank for more than a day or two. Otherwise, as the water evaporates, it leaves a line of calcium that is difficult to clean and will show in future shots.

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