Monday, January 26, 2009

It's All Chance: One woman's high speed journey

I played a lot of the dice game 10,000 (or as some of you out there may know it: Farkel) this weekend with my family while we visited my mother in Blue Hill, ME. I kept admiring how cool it looked when the dice were thrown and eventually, a lightbulb lit up over my head: I could take high-speed pictures of dice falling or being thrown!

I thought about it all the way home from Blue Hill yesterday and this morning, after Jon and Maya had left for work and school respectively, I set up my "studio." (Read: this photographer pushes all the junk on the kitchen table to the side, puts up a black velvet background and shoots pictures on the tabletop. Very "high-tech!")
I also thought it might be cool to take a picture of dice falling onto a Monopoly board.
Ultimately though, what I realized is that I liked how it looked when HANDS were throwing the dice, so now that I feel that I understand how to capture the dice fairly sharply, when maya gets home, I'm going to try to enlist her in throwing the dice for me as I shoot pictures of it.

Here's the dirt on how to do this, just in case you're so inclined as to try this crazy experiment sometime in your own "studio."

1. Put your hotshoe flash in PTTL mode but set it in high-speed sync if you have that feature. You can have the flash actually ON the camera, as I did it, or if you want flash to come from a different direction, set it up off camera wherever you like and set your camera to fire it remotely. Now get your cable release or IR remote (that's what I use.)
2. Put your camera in Manual Mode, so you can control your shutter speed and focus as well as ISO. Shutter speed: at least 1/1000 sec, ISO 100-200 to keep the images clean, f/13-16 to have crisper front to back focusing as the dice are going to bounce all over the place.
3. Set the camera up on your tripod (you can use whatever lens you feel necessary here: I used my kit 50-200mm because that's all I have at the moment.)
4. Get your dice out (or whatever you want to photograph at high speed really) and set them in the spot you want the camera to focus on them and focus the camera. Then lock your focus. On my Pentax, it has a little toggle switch beside the lens that allows me to change it to Manual focus.
5. Now, turn on the camera and flash and start dropping dice as you use your remote or cable release to release the shutter as many times as it takes! I'd love to hear if anyone tries this and see your results!

Thanks, as always, for reading. Cindy

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