After my recent experiments into DSLR shutter lag (here and here), I finally got to use my camera the way I was intending.
I started out with the kickstarter kit from here which is very well thought out. I’ve begun to make my own arduino based controller a couple of times, then stopped when I realised that my existing controller could actually accommodate what I was after.
I rebuilt everything into a wood frame, and routed the cables and mounted the solenoids so that everything is both extremely portable, and ready to be used without much thought. With unusual equipment like this, I find any extra time needed for setup becomes a psychological barrier to use, and it’s far too easy for stuff to end up permanently unused on a shelf. This is my attempt to avoid the rig becoming the ‘hot-dog maker’ of the photography world.
This was about the third time around for doing drop photography for me, and I think I’m getting the hang of the technique. Here’s some lessons I learned the hard way:
- Dial it in from basics. First get the DSLR shutter lag set correctly, then get the first drop happening and see if you can progress to a Worthington jet. Only then should you try getting advanced effects like multi-drop collisions.
- The Mariotte siphon is a nifty technique for getting constant water pressure even as the tank is emptied, and this makes the world of difference when you’re dialling in times in single milliseconds. The company Cognisys have some very well thought out versions for sale here. It wouldn’t be too hard to make your own either.
- There’s a beautiful ebook here for $20 which describes the process, and gives some amazing examples of what can be done. I printed it in colour and have it in a folder that travels with the rig, and that I keep my notes in.
I got fed up with having good settings one day, and no idea how to get back there the next, so I forced myself to make a spreadsheet. I printed a copy and it lives next to me on the bench. When I get to a particularly interesting settings constellation, I can jot it down for next time:
Here’s the file for it: Settings spreadsheet (XLSX)
Enough meta, onto the photos!