My first real introduction to photography outside of family snapshots was a Year 10, High School Photography class back 1993, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The most memorable topic from the class was an exercise in high speed photography, capturing the split second a smashed light globe begins to fracture.

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Please excuse the quality of these scans, they’re scanned from rather small 17 year old black and white prints. I do still have the B&W negatives, however I don’t have access to an appropriate scanner to digitise the negatives.

The setup consisted of a 35mm film SLR mounted on a tripod in a photographic dark room with all lights off. An off-camera flash was used in conjunction with a sound activated flash trigger. The very brief pulse of light emitted from the flash provided the only source of light exposing the frame. A cable release was used to keep the camera’s shutter open whilst the light globe was smashed, the sound of which triggered the flash exposing the film, at which point the shutter could then be closed. With some adjusting of the sound activated trigger sensitivity effectively increasing or decreasing the trigger delay, the desired effect could be obtained, that is the light globe just beginning to shatter but still mostly intact.

For safety this took place in an enclosed area with black plastic surrounds to catch flying glass debris and appropriate protective eye-wear was worn.

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Since this experience, I’ve always wanted to revisit this genre of photography. I find it fascinating capturing moments that are just simply far too quick to see normally. Having recently acquired a Canon 580EX II off-camera flash unit, I’m now in a position to start building up a high speed setup at home. In the coming months I’ll be building a microcontroller based high-speed flash trigger using an Arduino board.

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I’ll be publishing my progress, experiments and all technical information here on this blog as I progress through the build.