High Speed Flash Tests

Experimenting with High Speed Flash Photography and a Mumford Time Machine, other experiments can be seen here

“Catch a Falling Star”, an image I’m very pleased with:


a. 2″ @ f16 iso 200 cable release. 50mm on a 40D, full frame image.
b. Front 580Ex 1/32 power with diffuser
c. Rear 580Ex 1/64 power zoomed in to 105mm as a spotlight. Reduced to 1/64 because it was much closer than the main flashgun.
d. Flashes triggered from microphone (200mm away), 0.009 seconds delay.
e. Balloon smaller than previous attempts and under more pressure.


A water droplet animation consisting of 480 images taken at 0.5 millisecond intervals. Click here to see the full animation.


A biscuit being shot by an air gun pellet from a Beeman 0.177 air pistol.

The muzzle velocity of this gun is 130 metres/second and the muzzle was approx 250mm from the biscuit.

a. 2″ @ f11 iso 200 cable release. 100mm on a 40D, full frame image.
b. Front 580Ex 1/128 power zoomed into 105mm to maximise the lighting.
c. Rear 580Ex 1/128 power zoomed into 105mm as a rim light.
d. Flashes triggered from microphone attached to the gun barrel, 0.002 seconds delay.
The flash duration is approximately 1/35,000 second and the pellet has traveled about 4mm during this exposure and it can be seen in the debris trail.


A party popper captured 0.003 milliseconds after the popper was popped.


A single 580EX flashgun on 1/64 power was used to capture this image. The flashgun was triggered using a microphone sensor picking up the bang from the party popper.


A journey through failed experiments with notes on each experiment which might help anyone else taking this path.


Falling Apart at the Seams

A failure in my book because I didn’t get the shot I was after ie I wanted to capture the pellet after it broken the internal filament but before it exited the bulb.

Interesting to see what appears to be a double exposure around the edge of the bulb but no evidence of it if you look at the cracking in the middle of the bulb. I can’t figure out what would cause this.

It was a 1 second exposure BUT in a completely darkened room and lit by two flashguns wirelessly triggered. One aimed at the background and one aimed from in front of the bulb. Both guns on 1/128 of full power so flash duration would be about 1/35,000 of a second.

This was another attempt using the same setup but the double exposure effect isn’t apparent.

f16 @ iso200 using a Canon 40D and 100mm macro len

update: a possible solution to the double exposure is an electronic delay between the firing of the two flashguns which I haven’t observed before.


A recent stop motion animation test on a clockwork mechanism.


Click here to see the full animation.
500 photographs triggered by a photodiode across one of the moving arms. Each frame was incremented by 0.002 second delay. So this represents 1 second of movement but took a couple of hours to shoot. 9 trigger events were ignored to allow the flashes to recycle. A 580Ex and 550Ex flashgun on 1/128 full power were used to stop the movement.
Fail: Using a poor quality alarm clock mechanism has resulted in an irregular movement of the main lever


Water Balloons Trials


a. 2″ @ f11 iso 200 cable release. 50mm on a 40D
b. Front 580Ex 1/32 power with diffuser
c. Rear 580Ex 1/32 power zoomed in to 105mm
d. Flashes triggered from microphone set 200mm from the balloon, 0.003 seconds delay.
Fail: Delay slightly too short for the balloon to clear the balloon.



a. 2″ @ f11 iso 200 cable release. 50mm on a 40D, full frame image.
b. Front 580Ex 1/32 power with diffuser
c. Rear 580Ex 1/64 power zoomed in to 105mm as a spotlight. Reduced to 1/64 because it was much closer than the main flashgun.
d. Flashes triggered from microphone (200mm away), 0.006 seconds delay.
Fail: Pressure in the balloon wasn’t high enough to rip the balloon apart quickly enough.


Pushing the laws of physics too hard


a. 2″ @ f16 iso 200 cable release. 50mm on a 40D, full frame image.
b. Front 580Ex 1/32 power with diffuser
c. Rear 580Ex 1/64 power zoomed in to 105mm as a spotlight. Reduced to 1/64 because it was much closer than the main flashgun.
d. Flashes triggered from microphone (200mm away), 0.012 seconds delay.
Fail: at 12 milliseconds after the balloon was popped the water sphere has collapsed into chaos


more to follow

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17 Responses to High Speed Flash Tests

  1. sergio says:

    How do you “pop” the balloons that are placed on your hand?

  2. Bruce Hedge says:

    Hi, Kevin, great pix!! I have had similar double exposures from sound triggers— I suspect it’s an echo from the bang bouncing off a wall in the room and triggering the flash again ?? Perhaps not, after thinking more… if that was the case, wouldn’t you get a lot more bits of the pic doubled?? Oh well, back to the drawing board….

  3. Tom says:

    With regard to your supposed double exposed lightbulb….I believe this type of bulb is made from a basic white glass bulb which is then dipped in red glass or plastic to give the red effect.

    I believe what looks like a double exposure is merely the white glass blowing out of a break in the red glass, or the red glass is there but looking very washed out and pale
    because it is only one thin layer being looked through at 90 degrees with bright flash light on back and front.

    Regards from Tom

  4. Bill says:

    Kev, I ran across your site while searching for flash durations for the Canon 580EX II. This is pretty neat stuff on your site.

    I’m using two Sunpak 383 flashes, one Canon 580EX II and one Vivitar 283 to shoot hummingbirds on the wing. The Canon and Sunpaks are fired by RF triggers while the Vivitar (used as backdrop light only) is on an optical slave. Of course the Canon and Sunpak flashes have different power ratings, so I was caught between matching the exposures of the Canon to the Sunpak, and matching the flash durations. Because it was easier, I matched the exposure. I’m seeing some ghost effects in my photos. So I decided to match the flash durations among the flashes, which means, at the same flash duration the Canon emits a great deal more light than the Sunpaks. My next attempt will be to move the Canon flash a little farther back than the Sunpaks, or set a wider angle on the Canon flash. Maybe use diffusion. Other than springing for a couple more Canon flashes, do you have any thoughts on this? It’s raining today, so I’m just mulling over my options.

    • photosbykev says:

      The only time I’ve had ghost images was when I was shooting with the flashguns connected wirelessly, I figured there was a small but noticable timing issue causing the problem. When I hard wired the flashguns together the problem disappeared even when the guns were being set at differing power levels, say one at 1/128 and a pair at 1/64 of full power.

      • Bill says:

        I never saw ghosts when using RF triggers exclusively, but my hummer photos were often haunted when using optical slaves. This may be the clue I overlooked. The backlight flash is on an optical trigger. Some of that light may be striking the subject causing my ghosts. I believe some, if not all, optical slaves have very slight reaction times. Thanks for the prompt reply. It’s helpful knowing that differing power levels is not the culprit.

  5. Pingback: Freezing liquid drops with a flash, Nov 21 2011 | Leif Norman:

  6. hilary says:

    what was the shutter speed ?

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  8. Richard D. Cox says:

    Could you tell me how you connect the Time Machine to the 40D? Which cable is required? Thanks.

  9. Kevin Lewis says:

    Thank you for the input Tom 🙂 The second gun is being fired via the master/slave wireless link which will put some delay into the triggering. I’ll be modding the system so both guns are triggered via a wire to see if the timing improves.

  10. tom brown says:

    (sorry, 30us (microsecnds), not 30 ns.

  11. tom brown says:

    Two flashes = two exposures… they will not be exactly simultaneous… maybe if you were using the same flashes at the same power and the same triggering system… but when you’re timing things to 30ns (1/30,000th of a sec) you’ve got to expect a bit of jitter from your flashes. At least that would be my expectation, and I do have degree in electrical engineer with some emphasis in control theory… and zero relevent experience 🙂

  12. simon says:

    hello,
    absolut incredible work you are doing here. Thats just perfect.

    greets
    simon, from austria 😉

  13. Pingback: Shot Down in Flames | PhotosbyKev

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