Go out with a bang

James Pater­son ex­plains how a sim­ple don­gle can trans­form your phone into a sound trig­ger, al­low­ing you to cap­ture split-sec­ond ac­tion in stun­ning clar­ity

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Learn how easy it is to pho­to­graph an ex­plod­ing wa­ter bal­loon

High-speed pho­tog­ra­phy en­ables you to cap­ture mo­ments that are im­per­cep­ti­ble to the naked eye. You’ll need a few bits of kit for it, but you can get great re­sults with a sur­pris­ingly sim­ple setup. The most im­por­tant fac­tors are pre­ci­sion and speed: you need to cap­ture the ex­act mo­ment the ac­tion oc­curs, and to use an ex­po­sure that’s fast enough to freeze the mo­tion.

A sound trig­ger is ideal for cap­tur­ing any ac­tion that cre­ates a noise. When the trig­ger de­tects the noise, it will fire the cam­era shut­ter or Speed­light, giv­ing far more suc­cess­ful re­sults than you’d get if you at­tempted to trig­ger the shut­ter by hand. We’ve used a sound trig­ger here to cap­ture an ex­plod­ing wa­ter bal­loon, but you could use the same tech­nique to freeze the mo­tion of any high-speed ac­tion that cre­ates a pop or bang.

You might think sound trig­gers are ex­pen­sive, but there’s a great gad­get from Trig­ger­trap that costs just £23 ($35) that pairs your cam­era or flash with your smart­phone, en­abling you to use your phone’s built-in mi­cro­phone, cam­era, clock and vi­bra­tion sen­sors to trig­ger your D-SLR.

Trig­ger­trap’s D-SLR at­tach­ment is fine for most uses but, as with most trig­gers, there’s a slight shut­ter lag. For high-speed pho­tog­ra­phy, that split-sec­ond makes all the dif­fer­ence. Luck­ily, Trig­ger­trap has an ex­tra flash at­tach­ment that con­nects your phone to your Speed­light rather than your D-SLR, elim­i­nat­ing shut­ter lag.

Flash is ideal for high-speed pho­tog­ra­phy. The burst of light is in­cred­i­bly fast, par­tic­u­larly at a low power set­ting. When set to 1/128 power, the Nikon SB-910 Speed­light we used has a flash du­ra­tion of 1/38500 sec – fast enough to freeze the ac­tion. The prob­lem is, we need the cam­era’s shut­ter to be open when the sound trig­ger fires the flash, but we don’t want any am­bi­ent light to creep into the ex­po­sure. The so­lu­tion is to take the shot in to­tal dark­ness. This way, you can open the shut­ter for as long as you need to, and the only il­lu­mi­na­tion will come from that in­cred­i­bly fast burst of flash. Here’s how it’s done…

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