Receitas – Alto Impacto

So far we’ve worked on two techniques, which I called “plunge” and “low-impact“. Notably, they show that splash photography need not be synched with minute precision in all cases. The reason for this choice was purely didatic; those splashes were much easier to accomplish, considering that once you add full synchronization, you need at least more equipment. Until recently, such equipment was only available at professional sophisticated studios: it was expensive, hard to operate and too cumbersome to carry. Lately, however, we’ve seen the diffusion of the knowledge required to build them. That reduced the prices relatively and made possible for beginners to have a go on that kind of shot. These equipments include a high-speed flash, which we’ve already talked about, and also a sensor.

The role of the sensor is to trigger the strobe at an exact point in time — a moment so brief that would render it impossible for humans to precisely trigger the flash on their own. In the last two Splash Recipes, that moment was short, alright, but not like a balloon burst, which happens at about 1/6000 second. To get the strobe to flash at such a precise point in time, we need an photo trigger.

On this third post of our series, we’ll exemplify that by shooting an ice cube falling into a glass of water. More precisely, we want to capture the moment when the cube hits the water and splashes, like in this picture:

In order to accomplish this, we will need:

  • 1 ice cube (preferably an acrylic prop, since it is practically and aesthetically more appealing than the real thing);
  • 1 glass;
  • 1 black backdrop;
  • 1 small piece of white Formica (mine is 15″ x 24″);
  • 1 homemade sound-activated trigger.

As you can see, the glass is above the white bended Formica: that enables you to shoot aligning your horizontal line with the bottom of the glass with a seamless white base below. Also, the black backdrop — instead of the continuous white Formica typical of table-tops — allows more snap to the splash.

The gadget you see in the picture is an 8-levels channel from which the ice cube can be dropped. It’s very useful in building your references when you’re still figuring out how to control height, speed and targeting, but with practice, you may get the hang of it without it — bear in mind, though, that even long-time practice won’t save you from breaking a few glasses without such a gadget. Other crucial factors to take into consideration, aside from the height of the fall, are the amount of water in the glass, its diameter and the size of the ice cube. Try out different combinations and see what pleases you most.

So, what we did first was to connect the sensor to the high-speed strobe and to the camera. These sound triggers generally have at least two controls: sensitivity, which controls how loud the sound input will have to be, and delay, which controls how long the sensor should take to trigger the flash and the camera once it receives the sound input. We set the delay a tad bit late, because we didn’t want the system to click exactly when the ice hit the water, but only when we had got a nice splash — we’re talking milliseconds here, mind you.


After that, we tested some levels from which to drop the ice and chose no. 2, which gave us our preferred splash. It’s a few inches above the target and, even so, the gadget tilted a bit and we lost a glass. It was no big deal, but since broken glass may come in your way here, you’d better be careful and take the usual measures to avoid serious accidents in such cases.

Once this has been built up by some trial and error, the shot is the fun part. It amounts to releasing the ice onto the target, because the impact on the water will be loud enough to activate the sensor, which triggers the high-speed flash and the camera shutter. This shooting action in its entirety should last 1 second, which, considering the time scale we’re dealing with, is an eternity.

2 Responses to “Receitas – Alto Impacto

  1. Tony Generico disse:

    Meus caros, vários amigos estão desenvolvendo diferentes sensores. Quem está muito próximo de lançar um sensor nacional, o qual acabo de testar o protótipo com muito sucesso é a Digiflash – – 11 3774.3477.

  2. Jhonatan Prudencio disse:

    Pois é Tony, curto muito seu trabalho, mas poderia dar mais infos sobre o sensor de som? Obrigado!

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