I was drawn to Edgerton’s images due to the scientific nature of his work. While his infamous Milk Drop Coronet and other Milk Drop images are instantly recognizable, I also love images such as ‘Bullet Through Balloons’, ‘This Is Coffee’ and ‘Fanning The Cards’ (all seen below) as great examples of freezing a moment in time.
In these later three in particular, you really feel like the motion has completely stopped; you can envision what likely happened moments before, and moments later, but right now we’re on the cusp of the completion of that action, but stuck right where we are with the conclusion never to come.
I also find his multi frame images fascinating. In these it’s almost the opposite of the above; we can see the entire action at once, but at the same time this moment too is frozen. These stroboscopic images are beautiful and portray short actions that happen so quickly, that without such images we wouldn’t be able to stop and appreciate the motion. I would like to possibly revisit this technique for my assignment.
Arthur Mason Worthington
A M Worthington’s splash photographs could easily be mistaken for Edgerton’s Milk Drop images at first glance. I like that Worthington also blurs the lines between science and photography, and used his physics work to move the possibilities of photography forward.
I feel I am a bit of a scientist at heart and I love watching ‘slo-mo’ footage on YouTube with my kids. We are all fascinated by the stretching or freezing of time to appreciate moments that pass too quickly for us to comprehend.
I haven’t previously experimented with the fastest shutter speeds of my camera and so I plan to use this exercise as a way to do so. Taking influence of the milk drops, I intend to try and freeze moments of moving liquid.
My Own Attempts
In an attempt to recreate fluid images similar to those above, I decided to play with the water in the bathroom sink. The bathroom usually gets some lovely daylight thanks to a south facing window which is at 90` to the sink, but I was surprised to find that I still needed the bathroom lights on as well to boost the available light.
There isn’t much room to play with in the bathroom, and I didn’t have the luxury of anyone to help me, so turning the tap on and off whilst taking the photos at the same time did prove tricky. If I was to experiment further I would set up a tripod and a remote shutter release to make this process easier.
Initially I hoped to capture the splash as the water hit the plug, however I found that when the tap was open enough to cause the water to splash, it’s trajectory actually missed the plug. When using a slower flow of water there wasn’t really any splash; the water just ran off the smooth surface.
Adding some water in the bowl helped to create some lovely splashes, and there was the added bonus that the sitting water wasn’t always visible in the photos, sometimes causing it to look like the splash was floating.
The downside to hidden water is that the splashes themselves were not always clear to see! I used food colouring to the standing water to provide some contrast and interest. I only had red food colouring which actually created some really eerie blood-looking effects.
I kept the tap in most of the photos to show the context and the entire journey of the water from the sink to the plug, including occasions where I captured it mid way through this motion.
I set my camera to the fastest available shutter speed – 1/8000. I left my ISO and aperture selections on auto.
The ISO settings ranged from 1250 to 16000, and the aperture, unsurprisingly stayed at f/1.4 throughout. This did make focusing tricky as I had such a narrow depth of field, but when it was successful it created some lovely depth to a scene that was actually very small.
I did try a couple of slightly slower shutter speeds but it didn’t freeze the motion as crisply, although the images did sometimes benefit from less grain with a lower ISO.
I had my camera on fast multi-burst, which was a blessing and a curse. It meant I stood a better chance of catching a great splash image, but it did mean over the course of the exercise I took nearly 750 photos!
After taking out all the blurry images or ones which showed no movement whatsoever (i.e. before the tap was opened) I was left with 143 photographs which can be seen on the contact sheet below.
I did not edit these images in anyway; I wanted them to be accurate to as shot.
From that I selected 17 images that worked well, and 5 I was pleased with. These chosen 5 are below:
‘’Series XIII, Splash of a smooth wet sphere’ by A M Worthington, 1908.’ (s.d.) At: https://www.ssplprints.com/image/218697/worthington-a-m-series-xiii-splash-of-a-smooth-wet-sphere-by-a-m-worthington-1908 (Accessed 21/03/2021).
The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Study of Splashes, by A. M. Worthington (s.d.) At: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39831/39831-h/39831-h.htm (Accessed 21/03/2021).
Dowling, S. (s.d.) ‘Harold Edgerton: The man who froze time’ In: BBC At: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140722-the-man-who-froze-the-world (Accessed 21/03/2021).
Harold Edgerton (s.d.) At: https://whitney.org/collection/works/10816 (Accessed 21/03/2021).
Harold Eugene Edgerton (s.d.) At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/harold-eugene-edgerton-fanning-the-cards (Accessed 21/03/2021).
Harold Eugene Edgerton. This is Coffee. 1933 (s.d.) At: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/49821 (Accessed 21/03/2021).
High Speed Camera « Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton (s.d.) At: http://edgerton-digital-collections.org/techniques/high-speed-photography (Accessed 21/03/2021).
Harold Eugene Edgerton. Bobby Jones with a Driver. 1938 (s.d.) At: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/49771?artist_id=1681&page=1&sov_referrer=artist (Accessed 23/03/2021).