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High-Speed Photography: Capturing Motion

Lesson 1 of 15

Class Introduction

Clay Patrick McBride

High-Speed Photography: Capturing Motion

Clay Patrick McBride

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

So overview for today's class, hopefully it will be a hgih speed class. Me and Chris are all hyped up on energy drinks so we're fired up, ready to go eh? (giggles) Our lesson plan is we'll talk about the power of high speed photography, 'cause I think it's truly a unique niche in the world of photography and it's something that's really baked in and a part of photography. Talk about sound and laser triggers, that's why we're gonna use lasers today, crazy lasers to make things fire and sound triggers. We're gonna pop some water balloons, break some things, free some action, we've got a dancer coming in. Beautiful model with these abs for days so I'm stoked on that, we've had some great models here. So we're gonna capture a bunch of splash with him. Let's talk about our objectives. First thing we have to do is talk about this idea of flash duration. It's a little bit technical but it's important. And it's measured in two things, T1 and T and we'll look at both of them and we'll talk abou...

t that. We'll discuss the ideal settings for this scenario of electronic flash. There are many scenarios for high speed photography, we're looking at one. Creative Live, I was watching this guy, Michael Clark, talk about high speed photography and action photography and if you're into that sort of thing, if you're into sports and people doing radical stuff, you should check it, this guys is like a Jedi of high speed photography so check him out. We're gonna demonstrate how to problem solve 'cause I think you've seen me all along the way problem solving. We're gonna look at glass and reflective materials because I teach advertising and kids always struggle with glass stuff, they struggle with shiny stuff so we'll just talk very generally about those principles and look at them because we're in a scenario where they're right in front of us so we'll look at that. And we'll photograph some high speed splashes, a water balloon popping using a laser trigger and we'll discuss best practices and safety concerns. So speaking of that, it wouldn't be a bad idea, Creative Live, if I had a couple pieces of plastic for this set that I'm working on. Just to cover this one light when we get to shooting in about five minutes. Cool? Okay, right on. So what we're looking at there is a balloon popping. The moment of impact. So that's what we're gonna be doing today, that's what it would look like before. This is what it look like after. And if you look right here, you see a little projectile. I make a little blow dart using a straw. So we use blow darts today, which will be fun. Whenever I get a chance I like to shoot some blow darts. (giggles) And as a teacher I never did this sort of work and as I taught at this crazy school I teach at, RIT, it forced me to learn some stuff that I never knew in photography that I wish I knew. Because, like I said, I've been in situations photographing a simple basketball player jumping in the air and I'm using strobe and it's not freezing the way I want it to. I'm working for Nike, the kicks, a little bit blurry. NFG, right? And then thank God I'm friends with a guy at Pro Photo and I'm calling my friend Cliff Housner and I'm like, "Cliff, what am I gonna do?" And he's like, "Are you set like this? "Are your overheads off?" He's just walking me through it. But that's not the time to learn this stuff, on the job, right, you know what I mean? It's not a good time to learn. So since then, the advent of the camera, motion has been the thing that's just been baked into it. Eadweard Muybridge was a pretty radical scientific photographer. This is before motor drives and anything like that, this is still plate photography. And he has camera, camera, camera, camera, camera, camera and strings going from cameras and then the horse running by and tripping on these strings and the cameras firing and it's a huge production. We're seeing this thing that Stanford University really wanted to see, is the horse completely off the ground at one moment? So this thing that's been a part of photography, this instantaneity, this thing that I think is like a magic to photography. I've talked a little bit about my brother being a magician right? So he's in Vegas. Maybe I'll do a magic trick at the end of the day 'cause I do a little magic, right? Sometimes the kids like it when I do magic. So there's a magic to this process that I think's really worth discussing, worth thinking about, worth a lesson in itself to really drill down on. 'Cause the camera sees in a way that we can't. Isn't that curious? And I was thinking about this quote from Larry Clark, he says, "If I shoot at 1/125th of a second and I get 125 great photographs, I have one second of recorded time on film. Have you thought about that? Dude, have you thought about that? It's just crazy. It's not even how we operate so it's this really bizarre sense of time that the camera's recording in. And we're gonna go so far beyond that. We're not gonna work at 1/125th of a second, we're gonna work at 1/10,000th of a second. Which I can't even understand those numbers. And then we're gonna deal with milliseconds, which is a millionth of a second. What is that? I don't even know. I don't get it. So, I'm no high speed photographer. But I do like what a photograph can do, like how a photograph can record motion, even panning with a little bit of blur in it. I do love that part of it, I do work with it. In photojournalism they call them peaking moments. Peaking moment when the football's on the tip of the athlete's fingers, before he's even caught it. That moment, that outrageous moment, peak moment, and they're hard to find. And just like a gesture and how things operate, how things move. This would I guess be high speed. This is a young LeBron James again, just crossing over between his legs with some edge lights. We learned how to light like that the other day. We did it with you. It's basically the same set up just a little bit wider. Or Al Green strutting down the street, just a series of shots. Or a shot like this where you're, we talked about it, find the light, find the photograph. I know you guys shoot a lot of shows and the light, it breaks there for a second, and then it's gone, it's there and it's gone. You can't even see it sometimes, it just happens, you get lucky. Just moments. We're talking about moments, I'm just showing some of my moments, trying to, yeah. It could be, the peak moment doesn't have to be this outrageous moment. It could just be this quiet, scripted, different kind of moment. It doesn't have to be something so bananas. But with this kind of work, I don't know, I was probably shooting ten, 15 years before I understood that this needs to happen at like 1/500th of a second. Even if it's daylight. In order for me to stop action outside, 1/500th of a second is gonna be a good place to be. That's Paul Pierce and I'm in a cherry picker and if you can ever get a cherry picker, it can really make some pictures. I've only been in them a couple times. There he is again. This is the job I was talking about when the sneakers were blurry. But we manage to make it work. I saw you had a crazy splash picture on your Instagram. Taking it hard to the paint. So the moment and freezing the moment, how flash can do this is what we're talking about. This is a very challenging job. I did this job for Bravo, Making A Supermodel, and they didn't let me experiment at all with the pyro. So I kind of showed up, I had to balance my flash to it, they gave me three explosions and then I had to go and film the show. So I did some experimenting of my own with back lit fire and stuff like that but a pretty challenging job to work on. But it was fun to work with a pyroetchnician who came in. I always say that luck is something you make and when I got called in for this job, they wanted me to do some sports pictures and they had some really silly idea to hang people from strings and I knew it was gonna look terrible and I was just trying to be enthusiastic. And then in the cubicle across the room I heard somebody talking about fire and I was like, "Oh you guys are gonna do fire?" And I was like, "I'm your guy. "I do that fire stuff all the time." 'Cause I had a couple pictures from festivals where there was pyro and stuff like that. I was like, "I got that job."

Class Description

The ability to freeze a moment of time can show power, emotion and detail. Learn how to utilize high speed flash duration to create powerful images in a fraction of a second. Through a variety of examples, Clay Patrick McBride will have you experimenting with your photography in a new way. He’ll explain:

  • High Speed Syncing techniques
  • T1 and T2 Flash Duration
  • How to capture the tiniest of details like water droplets or dust
  • Different trigger techniques depending on your unique setup



I enjoyed Clay's workshop, he is very methodical, and had clear simple explanations for the various shoots. I am excited to experiment with different lighting because he made it seem easy. As he mentioned "start small and make it bigger, bigger, bigger. Thanks!

joanne duncan

I agree with Alison, i think this could have been so much better. Too much tampering around on set, i like the small talk and the model talks, love his presence, very charismic, the only thing that kept me watching although i did fast forward some bits. just too slow and not much info.


Watched it live, I thought it had lots of great info. Hoping to buy it soon.