Monthly Archives: July 2013

Water Drop Collision Images with the Canon PowerShot S110 Camera

Today I did one more round of water drop collision photography, following up on my experiments over the past month or so. This time, I used the Canon PowerShot S110, a really nice, very compact camera that takes Raw images and has full manual controls. (You really need to use manual focus for these images, as well as manual exposure.)

I should mention in passing that the only reason I had not tried this type of shooting with the S110 before now was that my camera went in for repairs in mid-June, and I just got it back yesterday. I had a mishap when I was trying to attach the S110 to a spotting scope for digiscoping; the attachment system I used did not work well, and I ended up pulling the lens assembly apart. I checked around on the internet and found a repair shop called Royal Camera Service, Inc., located in Illinois. I was a bit nervous about sending the camera out for repair, but I called them and then sent it out. It took quite a while, but, for $119.00, they did an excellent job, and restored the camera to good-as-new condition.

Anyway, I set the camera up in the same way I did for the earlier water drop shots, this time using a Youngnuo YN560 III flash along with the StopShot control device from Cognisys, Inc. I set the camera to Manual exposure mode and used manual focus; I pre-focused on a small hand bell sitting in the water tray at the spot where the water drops would fall. I set the exposure to 0.5 second and turned on the self-timer to 2 seconds. Then, after turning out the room lights, I pressed the shutter button, and, as the self-timer ran out, I pressed the button on the StopShot controller to trigger the falling of 2 water drops. After the drops passed the infrared sensor, the flash was triggered (during the half-second exposure), and the flash caused the camera to capture the image of the collision of the drops.

The setup for this procedure is shown in the first image in the gallery below, and sample images are included after that one.

Pole Aerial Photography with the Nikon Coolpix P520 Camera

Today I did my first experiment with pole aerial photography, a technique I have been reading about for a while but never got around to trying. With this setup, you attach your camera to a pole that is anywhere from a few feet long to as long as you can manage. I have read that some people use poles as long as 18 feet (5.5 meters) or even longer. The technique often is used by real estate professionals to photograph properties from higher angles, in order to show the surrounding area better than could be done from ground level.

To elevate the camera, many people use painter’s poles or broomsticks. The pole I used, shown in the gallery of images below, is one that my family has had for more than 10 years; it is designed for attaching cleaning brushes and other devices for household maintenance, so you can reach light fixtures and other high areas in a house. I’m not sure how long this pole can extend, though it goes to at least 12 feet (3.6 meters).

The other thing you need is a way to attach the camera securely to the pole. I purchased a very nice adapter from a site called The adapter screws on to the end of the pole, and has a tripod screw sticking up. I attached a standard ball head to the tripod screw, and secured the camera to the ball head. The result is shown in the first picture in the gallery at the bottom of this post.

The next step is to set up the camera to take pictures when it is several feet up in the air, out of your reach. There are several ways this can be done. One way is to use the 10-second self timer and press the shutter button, then quickly hoist the camera into the air. That approach probably would not give you enough time to get the camera aimed properly, and you would have to bring the camera back down to your level to press the shutter button for each image.

Another possibility is to use the Nikon Wireless Mobile Adapter, which lets you control the P520 remotely using an iPhone or Android phone. I have not tried using the wireless adapter for pole photography, though it should work. Of course, there are limitations with the use of the remote function. Specifically, the camera will take pictures only in Auto mode, and you cannot make many settings. But, you can take pictures using the phone, so it may be worth a try.

You also can rig up a remote device, sold at the site, which can trigger the camera mechanically. I have not tried that setup either.

The system I used for controlling the camera is the interval timer setting of the Continuous menu option on the Shooting menu. With that option, you can set the camera to take pictures at intervals of 30 seconds or longer, without any further action by you. I set the timer for the 30-second interval and then lifted up the the pole with the camera on top; the P520 then took one image every 30 seconds. With this system, you can use the camera’s many other settings, including the flash.

In the gallery below, I’m including a shot of the camera on the pole as well as a couple of views of a small garden fountain–one taken from ground level and one taken from the top of the pole, just to illustrate the use of the general technique. I will see if I can find some more interesting subjects for other pole shots in the future.

Video Showing Setup for High-Speed Images of Gunshots with Sony RX100 Camera

Recently I posted some high-speed images I took with the Sony DSC-RX100 camera of the impacts of shots from an airsoft BB gun. I thought it would be interesting to make a video that shows how these images were captured, so I put together a sequence that shows how the various pieces of equipment were set up. Here is the video, as posted today on YouTube:

That probably wraps up my experiments with gunshot photos for now, because I need to take everything apart and reclaim the space for other projects. I will be turning my attention to a book about the new camera coming from Sony within a couple of weeks, the RX100 II (also known as the RX100M2).

High-Speed Ballistics Photography with the Sony DSC-RX100 Camera

Over the past few weeks I have been using the StopShot control device, made by Cognisys, Inc., to experiment with taking photographs of drops of water falling into a tray of water and colliding with each other. Once I had some experience with the operation of the StopShot device, I decided to try to branch out to taking high-speed images of impacts from gunshots.

I don’t own a real firearm and I wasn’t interested in getting one, so I did some research and decided to use an airsoft gun. I learned that there are many models of airsoft guns available. Many of them are replicas of real guns, but all airsoft guns fire only plastic BBs.

I found out that there happens to be a well-stocked store that sells airsoft equipment about 10 miles from my home near Richmond, Virginia. Last week I visited the store and, after a number of questions, ended up purchasing an airsoft rifle made by KWA, the LM4 PTR, which looks and handles much like a real AR-15 automatic rifle used by the military and others. This rifle shoots plastic airsoft BBs with a diameter of 6 millimeters and a weight of 0.20 gram. Although I don’t know the exact figure, the rifle shoots with a velocity of between 300 and 400 feet per second (100+ meters per second). The rifle is powered by “green gas,” a special mixture of propane that comes in a can.

The gallery at the bottom of this post shows the setup I used, along with a few of the shots that I managed to capture using the Sony DSC-RX100 camera. (I could have used just about any advanced compact camera, but I used the Sony because of its large sensor and excellent image quality.)

There were many steps involved in getting everything set up to capture these images. Here is a brief overview. I purchased the CTK Precision P3 Ultimate Gun Vise as a stand to hold the rifle firmly. With the rifle in that stand, it was somewhat tricky to get it lined up so that, when it fired a BB, the BB would travel between the two infrared sensors connected to the StopShot. When the BB interrupted the infrared beam, the flash connected to the StopShot (a Yongnuo YN-560 III flash) would fire after a delay to allow for the time it took for the BB to travel from the beam to the target. (This delay worked out to be between about 3 and 4 milliseconds.)

The flash was aimed at the target area, which was placed inside a cardboard box for safety. I cut out a part of the box and taped on a sheet of hard, clear plastic to make a protective window. The camera was set up outside that same window and was focused manually on the area where I expected the BB to hit. For each shot, I set the camera’s self-timer for a 10-second delay and used Manual exposure mode with a shutter speed of 1 second at f/9.0. I used the long shutter speed so the shutter would stay open to allow the action to be frozen by the flash. I kept the room darkened so there would not be much ambient light to interfere. I set the flash to its lowest power, 1/128 of full power, so the flash would have a very short duration and be able to freeze the rapid flight of the BB.

Once I pressed the shutter button to trigger the camera’s  self-timer, I moved quickly to the rifle and got ready to fire it. As soon as the camera’s shutter opened for its 1-second exposure, I pulled the trigger on the airsoft gun. Almost immediately after that, the BB penetrated the infrared beam and the flash fired, freezing the action as the BB moved through the target area.

In each image shown below, the gun was fired from the left side. In some shots you can see part of a target and the pellet trap that was set up in the back of the cardboard box to trap the BBs. Despite that setup, a good number of BBs went flying all over the room, making me glad I had my safety glasses on.

As you can imagine, it took a lot of trial and error to get the aiming and timing worked out to the point where I started to get some interesting images. You can see the setup and the results so far in the gallery below. I hope to keep working on this project so I can get some better images, but I was pleased that I was at least able to catch a few images of the black BBs as they flew through the targets.

One More Set of Water Drop Shots with the Sony DSC-RX100 Camera

I hope people aren’t starting to think I’m too focused on taking pictures of water drops. I have been posting a good many of those images lately, but this will probably be my last group of them, for a while at least. It took a good deal of effort and adjusting to get the water-drop equipment set up properly and to get the flash and camera working in sync with that equipment. So I wanted to get my photographs done with several different cameras while everything is set up, and then I will move on to something else.

Today I did one more set of photos with the Sony RX100 camera. These shots are not that different from the earlier ones in terms of the shapes that the drops made as they collided with each other, but the lighting was different and I used a different color scheme by placing red and blue sheets of paper behind the water tray. The gallery below shows these shots, which I have tried to arrange in roughly chronological order, showing one pre-collision image first, followed by images of drops in various stages of collision.


Water Drop Series with the Leica D-Lux 6 Camera

Yesterday I worked some more with the StopShot device for taking high-speed photographs. I now feel as if I finally got the various components properly arranged and working together well–the StopShot itself, the Yongnuo YN560 flash, the water tray, the background elements, and the placing and focusing of the Leica D-Lux 6 camera.

With this setup, I was able to capture a chronological series of images of two water drops colliding to form interesting splash patterns. For the background, as described in an earlier post, I placed two sheets of construction paper, one red and one blue, behind the water tray and aimed the Yongnuo flash at the colored paper so the light of the flash would bounce onto the water as the drops splashed into the tray. This time, I got the manual focusing more exact than before and got the timing figured out so I could capture a series of images showing how the drops fall.

The series does not show the same drops falling; each image is of a new set of drops, but taken at a different stage in the process, a few milliseconds later each time. In the gallery below, the first two images show the setup. In the second image, you can see the Yongnuo flash at the left side, aimed at the red and blue sheets of paper.

Then, in the remaining shots, you can see images of the drops before they collide, followed by views of later stages of the collisions.

Using the Leica D-Lux 6 for Water Drop Photography

I have recently made a few posts about water drop photography using the Sony DSC-RX100 and the Panasonic Lumix LX7. Today I will post a few photos I took with the Leica D-Lux 6 using a similar setup. These shots all were taken in Manual exposure mode with the shutter speed set to 0.5 second and the aperture set to f/8.0. I used manual focus for each shot, focusing ahead of time on a small hand bell in the water tray where the drops would be falling. I have continued to make adjustments to the arrangement and lighting of the water tray, so the images in the gallery below look a bit different from the ones I posted earlier.

For these shots, I used a larger tray to hold the main body of water, and I had the drops falling from a different height. I also placed sheets of red and blue paper behind the tray, so when the flash fired it bounced off both sheets, adding blue and red streaks to the images. I plan to keep experimenting with this setup, because there are so many possibilities for getting interesting images. For now, here are a few shots, one showing two drops before they collided, and the others showing the results of several other collisions.

A Few Wildlife Shots in Auto Mode with the Nikon Coolpix P520

A few minutes after 7:00 this morning, when I opened the front door to go out and get the newspaper, a fawn was standing casually on the front lawn.  It stared at me, but didn’t seem to be frightened or badly startled. So I decided to see if I would have time to grab a camera before the deer ran into the woods and out of sight.

I have several cameras available at any given time because of the camera guide books I write, so I had to make a quick choice. For this situation, I thought first of the Nikon Coolpix P520, mainly because of its long telephoto range. I made it upstairs and back down quickly with the Coolpix P520. This was a time to see how well Auto mode would perform. I knew I had a very short time before the deer would feel the urge to move on. I switched the mode dial to Auto and zoomed the lens in partway while aiming at my subject. The four images I managed to capture are in the gallery at the end of this post.

I took the first shot through the glass storm door so I wouldn’t disturb the deer any further with movement or noise. Then I opened that door and moved outside to see if I could get one or two shots with no glass in the way. When I went outside, the deer decided it was time to move to the neighbor’s lot, but I did manage to click off three more shots before it disappeared into the trees.

Obviously, these are not spectacular images. I just posted them as illustrations of how Auto mode can be a very handy setting to have available when time is limited.  They also are examples of how useful the P520’s great zoom lens can be when you need to capture an image without being able to get very close to the subject.