Category Archives: High-Speed Flash

In Remembrance of Tony Allen

Just received some very sad news that my high-speed videographer friend Tony Allen passed away last week.

We had a fantastic day in Tony’s studio in Oxford (quite a few years ago now) taking high-speed flash (stills) shots of water-filled balloons being shot by an air pistol. The high-speed flash was triggered by the sound of the pistol firing and we used the open-flash technique to capture the shot.

On a couple of the shots when I looked at the capture on the camera screen it looked like we had the flash trigger timing wrong as the balloon was still intact. But then a closer look at the image gave the stunning result shown above. You can see the pellet to the left of the balloon is still (remarkably) contained within the intact balloon. I like to say we got the flash synchronisation spot-on for this shot – but it was in fact pure fluke.

That was a great day Tony that I shall always remember fondly.

High-speed Xenon flashgun hire for your advertising campaign

Do you need to have access to specialist high-power high-speed electronic flash equipment for your advertising photoshoot – but you don’t want to purchase the equipment and have it on your inventory never to be used again?  If so – then the answer for you is to HIRE the equipment for the duration of your shoot, together with the operator (if required) to smooth out any technical difficulties.  To hire high-power high-speed Xenon flashguns for your advertising photoshoot – contact Greg Parker on to discuss your HSF requirements.

High-speed flash photography rig resurrected

As the weather simply refuses to play ball regarding the deep-sky imaging work, I have decided to resurrect the high-speed flash rig for water drop collision photography.

Going to try a couple of new things as well as following old recipes.  Will see if I can get a three drop collision worked out (I know this is not a trivial exercise) and I will see what 3-D (stereo) photography of the water drop collisions produces.

My feeling is that unless you have some other objects in the scene to create some depth, the water drop collisions won’t appear much more 3-D than they already do.  Experimentation time 🙂


Learn something new every day! High-speed flash lesson for today.

A couple of days ago I did some more  high speed flash work with the 9-microsecond Ultra units.  Here is the result of a double egg explosion.  At first sight it looks o.k. but the more you look at it the more you realise that it is blurry around the edges!  What’s going on here?  I know the flashes are fine as I did all that water drop work just a few weeks back.  I know that it is some sort of distortion as I can take the image into Photoshop, undistort it, and the image sharpens up a LOT.  So what’s changed from the water drop work?  Well for this session I did use the Canon 50mm prime lens instead of the Canon 100mm macro lens I used for the water drops.  But the 50mm prime is one of Canon’s sharpest lenses AND I have used it very successfully for high speed flash work in the past.  So what exactly is going on here??  Two days floating around the subconscious and this morning the answer hits me.  Shooting eggs is a VERY messy business.  This time I was prepared!!  I covered all the gear in cling film and put a cheapo UV filter over the 50mm lens to protect it from the mess.  And there’s your answer.  Had no idea of the repercussions of looking after the lens.  The UV protection filter has introduced all that edge distortion.  Live and learn.  Still very annoying though to have spent all that time and effort on a duff imaging session!

Finally got there in the end :) Water drop collision, in a glass, under a bubble.

After a few days of trying this and that I finally got the shot I’ve been after.  Here we have a water drop collision, in a glass of water, under a bubble.  Canon 5D MkII camera with Canon 100mm macro lens and 3 x “Ultra” flash units from highspeedflash dot com.  You might think this looks pretty good – BUT – it has nothing on the fluke image I caught and have now submitted to the Sony World Photographic Awards “Split Second” section.  I can’t give the game away at this stage, but if you recall the shot water filled balloon image that went viral, then there is a big similarity with the image I sent in to Sony.  I’ll take a few more water drop collisions and then move on to shooting (literally) stuff again 🙂

Taking things to the limit

Here is a 5 x 5 montage of 25 individual high-speed water drop collisions taken using 3 x Ultra flashgun units each working at 9-microseconds.  The combined light output energy of these units allows me to work with the Canon 5D MkII at the minimum f#32 and at ISO 100, an ideal combination for water drop work.  All these images were taken with the same timer settings on the Mumford Time Machine, so the difference in appearance between all the images is purely down to Chaos.  Interesting stuff!  The original TIFF datafile for this image is a massive 2.94Gigs (let’s just get this into perspective, this is tens of thousands of times bigger than the early hard drive capacities!!) and in terms of pixels it is 28,000 x 18,670 so it would give an 80 x 53 inch sized poster if printed out at 350 dots per inch.  This is not to say that it was an easy ride dealing with this huge image in Photoshop.  Yes Photoshop could handle the massive file – BUT – a simple edge crop took over 5-minutes to complete – so although the hardware and software could cope, my patience couldn’t, and this is getting towards the limits of what I can handle image-wise.