High Speed Photographs by Alan Sailer

These amazing high speed photographs are the work of Alan Sailer, who is based in California, USA. He tells Grand Illusions that he made his own high speed flash unit last year (2008) and started taking these extraordinary images in the fall.

A normal photographic flash unit gives a flash that lasts around a thousandth of a second (a millisecond). However Alan's flash unit is much faster than this, and produces a flash of light around a microsecond (a millionth of a second). This allows him to freeze things that are happening extremely fast, and to give us a view of something that otherwise we would never see.

The picture above shows a glass christmas tree bulb filled with orange Jello, just as it has been hit by the pellet from an air rifle - you can see the pellet on the right hand side of the picture, where it has just exited from the glass bulb.

The other key part of Alan's set up is an automatic trigger mechanism, as the pellet passes through a laser beam. When this happens, the flash is triggered. However in order to be able to fine tune the image, there is an adjustable delay circuit, so the flash will trigger at a precise moment after the pellet has passed through the laser beam. The digital camera (a Nikon 40X) uses a fairly slow shutter speed. The photograph is taken in darkness, and while the camera shutter is open, the high speed flash captures the image. Alan says that this allows him to catch the pellet is space with an accuracy of a few millimetres.

This image shows a clear glass christmas tree bulb filled with water, just as the metal pellet is passing through it.

This image shows four glass microscope slides, just as the air rifle bullet passes through. Alan says that it reminds him of the death scene in Blade Runner!

Although the photographs are taken in a millionth of a second, the cleaning up takes a lot longer! And although he does all his photographic work in his garage, somehow all the bits of debris have a tendency to find their way into the house.

See more of Alan Sailer's work on his Flickr page.

Alan Sailer's work is shown here with the artists permission.

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