2012 in review

This report just shows I need to be more active here… Lol


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Water Drops

A water drop. A High Speed Photography subject that can be photographed by anybody – beginners to masters. Every drop is unique, from a simple drop to some surreal images.

I, as a beginner, started with water drops coming out of the faucet. My flash is on-cam, which later on I learned was a bad setup.

At this point, I think, I started to have a passion for high speed photography. The images above, I think, are average water drop images. I posted them here to document how I started, and in the near future for me look back.

I also attempted water drop umbrella, which is not as easy as a simple water drop. Water drop umbrella is produced by colliding two water drops – one that just bounced from the water and one that’s still going down. I bumped into water drop umbrella on the net when I am searching for inspiration and something new to try. At first, I thought that they are unreal, impossible to produce. But I still attempted it, this initial step led me into the beautiful world of High Speed Water Drop photography.

I tried the 10 drops per second guideline to produce an umbrella. And here’s what I got:

Below average water drop umbrella. I had a hard time producing the image I wanted. I only got two colliding drops (it doesn’t even look like an umbrella) out of ~50 shots. There are so may things to consider – the light (which as you can see I failed to consider as the images were underexposed), the consistency of the water, the height of the drop, and most importantly the timing.

Then, I tried to use milk. Milk should usually have the a well-formed drop than water, as the milk has higher viscosity. Tried water umbrella using the milk, but then again, failed. Still, I got this keeper:

With hundreds of shots, I only kept less than 10 images. So overall, I failed on these initial tries but learned a lot. I learned that for plain water, lit the background and not the water itself, off-cam flash is always better. Pre-focus where the water drop will hit. Check proper exposure before shooting away.

This is also when I decided I needed a trigger specifically for water drops –  a Stop Shot Water Drop Photography kit.

First Attempt in Ballistic

I had some fun in my first ballistic shots. I asked my wife to save the egg shells just for this shot. And here they are:

Eggsplosion #1-1 to 1-5

I filled the empty shells with blue colored water. I had some trigger misfires, out of 10 eggshells, I only captured 4.

Since I still have time to shoot, but no empty shells, I decided to grab two eggs on our refrigerator and have them as a subject.

Eggsplosion #2-1 to 2-2

EXIF of the 5 images:
ISO 1600
open-flash technique
Sigma EF530 DG Super @ 1/32 power, with softbox triggered by Universal Photo Timer, sound-triggered @ 100ms

On the next Eggsplosion series, I’ll try to shoot colorful egg shells that were lined up. I’ll try to thicken the water, or better yet fill the egg shells with jelly. Maybe, I also need to use opaque plexiglass for the base reflection. But before that, I need to convince again my wife to save lots of egg shells! =)

Other things to drop into a water tank

Instead of the usual fruits being dropped into a water tank, I’ve used other things as a main subject – a hand and a colorful dice.

Beat the Calm
June 20, 2011
ISO 200, f/16 @ 70mm
used open-flash technique
Sigma EF530 DG Super left @ 1/64
YongNuo YN460-II right @ 1/32

First Place Winner : Accenture (Phil.), Inc Photography Club, June Photo of the Month, Theme: Hand


Dice Dice Baby
October 23, 2011
ISO 400, f/20 @ 135mm
used open-flash technique
Sigma EF530 DG Super left @ 1/64
YongNuo YN460-II right @ 1/32

Fruits being Dropped into a Fish Tank (the first few tries)

Capturing the image of fruits being dropped into a water-filled glass container is the most simple HSP shoot. You’ll just need to manually trigger the flash (or camera) exactly when the fruits plunges into the water. No special HSP triggers needed.

The captured shots, for me, are more exciting to look at compared to the typical Still Life fruits. The different form of water splashes produced adds drama and action to the image.

 Here are some of my first few tries:

Kalamansi Drop
November 8, 2010
ISO 200, f/11 @ 117mm
manual open-flash technique
YongNuo YN460-II flash 1/64 power @ 8 o’clock
Sigma EF530 DG Super flash 1/128 power @ 4 o’clock

Featured on Readers’ Gallery/Your Images section of Digital Photographer Philippines Magazine #40: Architecture and Advertising

Orange Splash
June 20, 2011
ISO 200, f/16 @ 70mm
manual open-flash technique
YongNuo YN460-II flash 1/32 power @ 8 o’clock
Sigma EF530 DG Super flash 1/64 power @ 4 o’clock

Apple Splash
June 20, 2011
ISO 200, f/16 @ 70mm
manual open-flash technique
YongNuo YN460-II flash 1/32 power @ 8 o’clock
Sigma EF530 DG Super flash 1/64 power @ 4 o’clock

I had some challenges on the white background set-up. First bump are those tiny white dots on the main subject. I figured that those are drops of water in front of the glass container. When lit by the flash, those drops of water shines like stars and can ruin the image.  So, lesson learned is to remove those specks of water drops before every shot. Second is  I had a hard time getting the pure white BG. Next time, I need a separate flash and direct it to the BG to produce white, shadow less BG.

Second Attempt in Jumping Colors

Here’s the output of my second shoot on jumping colors:

Jumping Colors
ISO 200, f/13 @ 135mmJumping Colors

Put some paint over a balloon-covered speaker. Paint jumps @ 90Hz, triggering the Universal Timer @ 2500ms delay

used open-flash technique
YongNuo YN460-II flash 1/64 power @ 8 o’clock
Sigma EF530 DG Super flash 1/128 power @ 4 o’clock

PP – cropped, adjust levels, sharpen

Success rate is one out of five (not bad, in my opinion). I am having the hang on shooting this kind of images, but needed to apply some of these lessons learned next time:
> use a bass speaker (aka sub woofer)
> use higher power amplifier
> I can probably do without the trigger, just make sure the liquid jumps continuously


First Place Winner: Accenture (Phil.), Inc Photography Club, December 2010 Photo of the Month, Theme: Best Photo of 2010

First Dance – First try on Jumping Colors

 The pictures below came from my first attempt to capture an image of paints jumping/dancing on a balloon-covered speaker.

Used open-flash technique.

Used only one flash, Sigma EF 530 DG Super @ 1/32 power, triggered by Universal Photo Timer (sound trigger).

PP – cropped, cleaned the background and sharpened.

These images remind me of how hard this exercise can be (the images are no beauty). It is difficult to find the perfect mixture of  liquid (mixture of paint, cream, water or oil) that will match on the vibration the speaker will throw (volume and Hz of the sound). I also added some sprinkles for me to see how really high (or low) the jump is.

Water and Oil JumpWater and oil jump

Red BlobRed Blob

Yellow Paint with lots of oilYellow Paint with lots of oil

Yellow Paint with SprinklesYellow Paint with Sprinkles

Sprinkles DelightSprinkles Delight

Jumping SprinklesJumping Sprinkles

At the end of the shoot, after more than 50 clicks, I only got one image to keep:

 First Dance
ISO 400, 135 mm, f/11First Dance

Open-Flash Technique

Open-Flash Technique

Open-flash technique is a simple method that most photographers use when capturing high-speed events. Here’s the process:

1. The image is taken in a room with low ambient light, the darker the room the better.

2. Open the camera shutter.

3. At the right moment, trigger the flash (i.e. manual trigger, or sound or IR trigger depends on the event).

4. Close the camera shutter.

Most of high-speed events are being captured using this technique, that is why this is also called as high-speed photography technique.

The flash will be the only source of light in the room, this  makes the ‘thousandth of a second duration’ achievable.  Note that on this method, camera shutter speed is irrelevant. The event duration will come from the duration of the flash, which is ~ 1/800 sec @ full power, and can be lowered to < 1/10000 sec @ 1/128 power (heavily depends on your flash).  The flash freezes the motion of a high-speed event, not the camera shutter speed.

On Camera Setting

Put your camera on full manual mode. Put the shutter speed in Bulb. If your camera does not have bulb, just use the highest value possible, i.e. 30 sec. Determine the appropriate aperture value. Use the lowest ISO value possible to minimize noise.

Use manual focus. Pre-focus first on where the image will be before clicking the shutter.

On Flash

I strongly suggest to use the flash off-cam. Shutter lag of the camera can affect the timing when triggering on-cam flash.

Do not use TTL, use manual. Adjust the flash power to correct the exposure. But keep in mind that  the lower the setting of the flash, the faster its flash duration, and the sharper the image will be.

Other notes

Since in HSP, we want the image as sharp as possible and we hate blur, the following are suggested:

1. Use steady tripod. Yes, not just any tripod, but a steady one.

2. Use remote camera trigger.

3. Enable mirror lock-up.

4.  Turn-off IS or VR (or whatever-you-call-it), if applicable. Remember your camera is in a steady tripod, so no need for them.

5. Pre-focus before you hit that shutter. Make sure that the image is in focus.

6.  If possible, check the captured image in a larger monitor, not on your little 3.5″ camera LCD. Check the clarity, sharpness and focus of the captured image, and adjust if needed before shooting again.

First Try on Balloon Pop

This is the first time I set-up to shoot bursting balloon, and the first time to use Universal Photo Timer, as a sound trigger. (I will list down the types of triggers and manufacturers in my upcoming posts.) I think capturing ‘balloon popping’ images are the simplest way to check and have a feel on sound trigger and its set-up. For this very reason, most of High Speed Photographers have their popping balloons, I think.

Here’s my very first shot:

Balloon Pop #1-1
f/11, 105mm, ISO 100

I captured the balloon more than halfway on its burst. So, I adjusted the Universal Photo Timer to trigger sooner to show the balloon ~halfway on its pop. Unfortunately, I did  not record the time delay on each photos. I sprayed some water outside the balloons and here are the results:

Balloon Pop #1-2
f/11, 105mm, ISO 200
Balloon Pop #1-3
f/8, 90mm, ISO 400

Balloon Pop #1-5
f/11, 85mm, ISO 200


Balloon Pop #1-4 (in GIF Animation)
f/11, 85mm, ISO 200Balloon Pop #1-4 in GIF Animation

All the above images are originally underexposed. I pushed the exposure and brightness up in post processing. I should have fixed the exposure during the shoot, but then, I realized that getting a right exposure in High Speed photography is tricky.

I could have used more than one flash  to help on the exposure and used the lowest flash power needed to freeze the event. For this shoot, I used only one flash @ 1/32 power. To add, I used open-flash technique.

On the next Balloon Pop shoot, I’ll try to fill up colored water in the balloon. Use pellet rifle gun instead of a pin and try to capture multiple balloon pop. And maybe, instead of just spraying the balloons with water, spray baking powder damped with colored water. And correct the exposure right there and then!

High Speed Photography Blog

What is High Speed Photography?

Wikipedia defines it as

High speed photography is the science of taking pictures of very fast phenomena. In 1948, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) defined high-speed photography as any set of photographs captured by a camera capable of 128 frames per second or greater, and of at least three consecutive frames. High speed photography can be considered to be the opposite of time-lapse photography.

In common usage, high-speed photography may refer to either or both of the following meanings. The first is that the photograph itself may be taken in a way as to appear to freeze the motion, especially to reduce motion blur. The second is that a series of photographs may be taken at a high sampling frequency or frame rate. The first requires a sensor with good sensitivity and either a very good shuttering system or a very fast strobe light. The second requires some means of capturing successive frames, either with a mechanical device or by moving data off electronic sensors very quickly.

For me, High Speed Photography is an art and science of capturing an event that occurs so fast, our naked eyes can’t follow. Usually, High Speed Photography (or HSP) events being captured are water droplets, splashing water, popping balloons, jumping paints, exploding things, etc. HSP is able to freeze these events, typically, duration is of a thousandth of a second, depending on the event.

In HSP,  image sharpness is everything, blur is not welcome.


The Start

As with most beginners in digital photography, I first shoot Portraits and Landscapes (and anything in between)… until I am inspired by HSP images. I also tried Still Life photography but I feel it lacks power and extra ooomph!

Searching some inspiration in web, I came across with photos of glass wines exploding, balloons popping, beautiful water drops and jumping color paints. These are the images I am looking for… Still Life photos with motions and emotions.

I tried it and never looked back. Still developing my photographic skill under this field, I aspire to create awe-inspiring images that our bare eyes can’t normally see.


The Blog

I am a hobbyist photographer and it means I shoot to kill time, for a whim.  As stated in my previous post, I created this blog to be my personal journal on a journey to master high-speed photography. This journal should contain personal notes on HSP to somehow remind me on where I am, and push me and encourage me to shoot more.

This blog also aims to help other photographers know more about HSP.

Welcome to High Speed Photography Blog!