High speed photography
About one year ago, I came across a website with beautiful images of splashes. I immediately knew I wanted to do this too! However, I was a macro photographer, withy zero experience of studio and/or flash photography. So, I had no idea what I needed, to create these a pictures. Since it took me about a month of intensive research to figure out what I needed (and why I needed it) I thought I share this information with you!
First thing you'll need are strobes (continues lights and studio flashes won't do the job) that can be set to manual (TTL won't work either). The reason why you need strobes, is that NOT the shutterspeed, but the flash will freeze the action and for highspeed photography, this is exactly what you'll want! Strobes will give a extremely short burst of light, when set on it's lowest power (usually 1/32 sec or 1/64 sec. Of course 1/128 will work too, but you'll likely end up with an underexposed image.
Next thing you'll need is a tripod. Even when you're working with a shutterspeed of, say 1/250 sec, the action (that you want to catch) is SO short, that you won't be able to see it happen, let alone you'll have time to focus.
Which will be the next issue... the focus needs to be set to manual. I always pre focus on something (a pencil, safety pin, etc) Try to visualize where the splash will be and where you would like to focus to be. Focus on the 'pre focus object' and don't touch the camera anymore ;)
As mentioned before, the shutterspeed will not freeze the action, so if you end up with underexposed images, you might want to try and lower the shutterspeed. I usually use 1/100 sec. However, make sure to work in a completely dark room, or the action won't be frozen!
Of course, if you're working with shutterspeeds lower then 1/250 sec, you'll need a cable release and if your camera has miror lock up, then use it!
In addition to all the above, you'll need towels (loads of them!) and garbage bags to keep that beautiful carpet stain free AND you'll need patients! Loads of that is needed as well! ;)
When you just start out, you'll likely fail to catch the moment the first few times, but after you gained some experience, it'll get better and better! I can now say that I'm able to catch the moment 95% of the time. This, of course however does not guarantee great looking images. I usually end up with 25-35 images before I have one that I think looks good! And don't forget you'll need to clean up the mess inbetween all those 25-35 images! (remember I said you'll need patients, loads of patients? ;) ) BUT for myself, I can really say that these splashes images are the ones I enjoy doing most. Every image gives another result and it's really exciting to do! Just try it!
Here are a few of my highspeed images:
Photo credits: Diavata.