In 1990 I was at the Boise Public Library doing research for a term paper. The subject? The effects of TV on children. I picked that subject completely at random and for no reason. I didn’t realize that finding information on the subject was impossible. I started looking for information at the High School library only to give up several times. The night before the paper was due I rumbled the big yellow van downtown to the “big” library. I started browsing through the photo books. Thats when I met Harold Edgerton.
Harold Edgerton was the M.I.T. professor that invented the electronic flash. He changed photography forever. He did some stop action photography that is to this very day some of the best made. Check them out here.
I decided I should try it.
Brent brought his .22 rifle over and we pulled the cars out of the garage. Our plan was simple: set an egg on a table and synchronize our “shooting”. 1 – 2 – 3 fire! We also decided to shoot in the dark. I was positioned next to the door and the light switch. He’d aim and at the count of 1 I’d turn off the light.
Our photography session was compromised a number of times by “looky lu’s”. All my younger brothers were curious about the gunshots coming from the garage.
Brent was shooting into a 50lb bag of sand. It stopped every bullet, we think. When we finished we had fun digging through the sand to find fragments of .22 rounds.
I had his dad’s old tripod and set up my camera 6 inches from the egg. My 35-70mm lens had a macro mode. I had to change the plastic wrap over my camera with each egg. We shot two dozen eggs and this was the best one.
I’ve posted a little about this experience here.
Photo tips, philosophical data and technical ramblings:
Mr. Edgerton’s images are better than mine. He knew some things about the flash that I would eventually learn.
The electronic flash fires at a constant intensity. The intensity is always the same. The thing that changes is the duration of the flash. If you need more “power”, your flash will fire longer. Not brighter.
His photographs are done with a very powerful flash firing at 1/10000th of a second or faster. That’s how he got such incredible stop motion. The flash mounted on my Vivitar v335 was set at “full blast” which meant that it was probably firing at 1/500th of a second. That’s not fast enough to stop the egg-shell fragments completely.
The only other photo tip I have for you is this: Don’t try this at home.
– Jon Ball is a photographer living in Boise, Idaho. www.studiojonball.com