High Speed Flash Photography




This is a picture of a screw driver mid bounce.
After reading about high speed photography in a magazine I was inspired to dig through my closet and see what I could come up with. I used a home made make-screen to trigger the flash while my digital camera was waiting with the shutter wide open.
It looks like I just stuck the screwdriver into the carpet, but I dropped it onto the makescreen. The second picture is of an airsoft pellet going through the makescreen.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Disposable camera
wax paper
aluminum foil (Thinner the better)
momentary switch
alligator leads

soldering iron
wire strippers
clothes iron
ironing board
screw driver
airsoft gun (at least thats what I used)

The great thing about this project is the low costs involved. I went to a photo finishing place and asked if they would give me the leftovers and they happily gave me three.

I wanted the thinest aluminum foil available, so I picked up the foil and the wax paper at the dollar store.

Step 2: Carefully Disassemble the Camera

Peel off the stickers and use the screwdriver to gently open the tabs on the camera.
Once you get the back off, take the battery out.

carefully pry out the film holder assembly. the flash circuit will come out with it.
Use an insulated screwdriver to short the capacitor by touching both leads with the blade of the tool. You know it worked when it sparks and pops at you. do it until it stops sparking. IF YOU DON'T DO THIS YOU RUN THE RISKS OF GETTING SHOCKED BY OVER 300 VOLTS.

Step 3: External Reset and Trigger

You can now remove the circuit board from the film cartridge by unhooking a small spring on above the lens assembly.

On the first camera that I modified I had to manually reset the flash after each shot. I wired up and external switch to make it easier by following the traces on the circuit board and soldering in a switch. The second camera I modified automatically recharged the flash, so a switch wasn't necessary.

To trigger the flash, you connect the two irregularly shaped metal attachments on the side of the board where the alligator clips are shown. Once you've gutted the electronics of the camera it's fun to test it by putting a battery in and shorting the two metal peices with a screw driver or bit of wire, just be very careful of the high voltages involved.

After this picture was taken, I soldered permanent wires to the trigger

Step 4: Making the Makescreens

A makescreen is nothing more than a really simple switch. Two pieces of foil and a sheet of wax paper is all you need.

I tried to find the thinest aluminum foil around by finding the cheapest. The wax paper shouldn't be the really thin kind found at deli's and butcher shops, but the kind you can actually see the sheen of the wax on the paper.

1) Rip two sheets of aluminum foil I used about eight or nine inches off the roll.

2) Rip off a piece of wax paper thats longer than the lauminum foil. I used about ten inches.

3) Layer the wax paper between the foil stagering the layers so that none of the foil touches. I left a good 1/4" to 1/2" border.

4) Using a clothes iron on high with no steam gently iron the sandwich together. It only takes a few seconds.

5) Sit back and admire the completed makescreen.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

To use the makescreen you use the aligator clips to attach one sheet of foil to one of the oddly shaped metal bits (sorry about the technical jargon) in the camera and the other piece of foil to the other oddly shapped metal bit. This will be easy if you've already soldered leads with alligator clips on them. Make sure you don't let the aligator clips touch both peices of foil or the system won't work.

I used my Kodak Digital Camera. It's certainly not the latest greatest camera on the market as I've had it for a few years now. I put the camera into manual mode and adjusted the shutter time to 1 second. I charged the flash, pressed the camera shutter button and droped the screwdriver on the make screen sitting on carpet. I wish I could say that I got a great picture on the first try but it took some practice to get the timing right.

I was able to reuse the makescreens several times before they were permanently shorted.

The room has to be fairly dark inorder for the picture to come out right. This shot was taken under my desk with the blinds closed and the lights off.

Step 6: Ballistic Setup

I taped the makescreen to a cardboard box and shot at it with my airsoft gun. this photograph shows the plastic pellet hitting the screen. According to the airsoft manufacturer, the pellet is moving at over 100 ft/second.



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    80 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 2

    I've shocked myself with one of those, decided I didn't want to be shocked again and shorted it out with a screw driver. Scared the crap outta me! Ever since then, whenever I get surprised it feels like a nine-volt on my tongue.


    10 years ago on Step 1

    If you go to Wal-Mart then they give you a big bag with about 10-15 used disposable cameras, FYI.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    For those at the top arguing about 300 volts and it's level of killitude. Current kills, not voltage. Static from a door knob can be anywhere from 20, to over 100,000 volts. The current is infinite, but since the discharge is instantaneous, You barely feel it. The capacitor on this camera is 300 volts ( or in that neighborhood if you actually test them) If you put your finget across that, you'll probably get a little burn. BUT if you were to put one finger from each hand on each lead, your heart is now directly in the path of current flow. Which can cause arrhythmia, or deadness. I am by ne means arguing with Vendigroth, people have survived lightning strikes with very little ill after effect, but those folks were the exception rather than the rule. People more often get hit and are either severely impaired physiologically, or severely impaired being alivealogically. Is this camera gonna kill you, probably not. CAN it kill you? most certainly.

    16 replies

    2 problems though the metal isn't exactly helping the case in saving you from the lightning, it has to be shoulder to shoulder for the cap idea, however having recently been changing lightbulbs and gotten electrocuted again I can safely say 240VAC at 50hz (UK mains) can't kill you (I don't know the currents though) but you can light a bulb with one hand, in fact it may have saved my life, as it would have hit me across the chest for the second time in a month. In any risk of electrocution I suggest you remove your non electrocutable hand off the ground as that way your less like to get dead and as for the caps through the hands, well it's dumb to deliberately get shocked or allow your self to be but hey aint deadlylong as its one hand

    240 volt UK mains can easily kill you as its currents are around about 13 amps that is certainly enough to kill you. My dad has been shocked many times by 240 volts but luckily hasn't been killed, however, these were some very lucky cases where the current didn't go across his heart. If that happened he would almost certainly been killed.

    The main thing I have trouble understanding is the fact that a tiny voltage hand to hand (as in across the chest) could kill people but some people get away with it... I've been hit hand to hand a few times and nought's happened to me...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    If you have over 0.1A flowing through your heart, your heart goes into something called "fibrillosis" [please corrct my spelling]. What basically happens is the bodies natural pacemaker is also giving out tiny current pulses to "clock" your heart. If an external "clocking" pulse is applied, it misses a clock cycle and you get an cardiac arrest. [Quite a low margin for error that ;)] Here's why you survive those small shocks: The torso's internal resistance is widely accepted to be 10Kohms, but the path across you skin is has much lower resistance. 800ohms when wet [with sweat] So much of the current never actually flows though you heart. But if it has no other path, ie you connect your heart in series, well then your sorta dead.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Please forgive my spellings and blank links on the post above. I was in a terrible hurry and didnt know that enclosing in square brackets caused text to be auomatically hyperlinked.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    since we are sharing about getting shocked, i got shocked by 4 of these capacitors in the same finger. i felt it all the way to my bicep (or lack of). it hurt like a MOFO (mother f*cker). it aint deadly but it still sucks! if you like pain, you have some kind of problem, please see a profesional. (i don't count lol)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I never got the idea of hurting yourself deliberately but I like taking risks with painful gambles, a completely different philosophy but if you do a similar thing with no risk just getting hurt then you never fail...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    try copping an electric fence you your ear, a cattle one. feel like a fking sledge hammer.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I sat on one for like five minutes and then my leg touched wires, I fell off and got my hand shocked aswell...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    sorry if i got upset, but it should be noted that your first mistake could be your last. the point is that even if something doesn't kill you, it isn't good! that could have killed me if i touched it with my other hand. also, current kills, not voltage. 1ma- "tingily" 5ma - "ow" 10ma- "$h*7!" (no longer safe) 30ma dc - "I can't let go" and "$h*7!!!" subjecting yourself to pain isn't cool!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was agreeing but saying there's fun in risks, mostly with physical and mechanical things like 'how fast can I really go' thoughts or those electric shock games, but that's a competition (which I win quite often...) I have the don't let go mentality when being competetive. Though this kind of list works well for drinking, which isn't much different... Tingly Wow Shit (I fell over) Cant let go of the handrail and shit lol I see people drink themselves to death in the same way that people have the shock games that are just hurting yourself (even saw them combined)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I have to argue with you on two points. the claim of infinite current, and instantaneous discharge not doing any damage. Both of these statements are false. the reason a static discharge doesn't kill you is the low current.