How I Took that Shot – Zane Llewellyn

Not only did the image above win Zane Llewellyn first place in Grade B in our recent 'Colour Burst' competition, it also got the overall highest score across all Grades with a comfortable margin. This is how he made the shot:

I’d always wanted to try and photograph bursting water balloons and when I saw the competition theme of ‘Colour Burst’ I knew I’d have to give it a try.

Besides the photography equipment, the main items required  are water balloons and patience!

I turned my bathroom into a mini studio, with the balloons mounted over the bath and a black reflector on the wall behind, the camera was setup on a tripod outside of the splash zone and the flash setup on another tripod closer to the balloons.

It isn’t possible to freeze the water drops using the shutter and flash as this has a maximum speed of ~1/200sec or tops 1/800sec in Hi-Sync mode, neither would be fast enough. Instead the photo has to be taken in the dark with the shutter open, while the very high speed of flash will light up and freeze the water drops. As no other light is present, the shutter duration doesn’t affect the photo.

To take the shot, I’d have everything ready to go and then I’d turn off the torch, press the shutter, which was set to keep the shutter open for 5 seconds and then pop the balloon with a pin that I’d taped onto a stick.

To trigger the flash I used the TriggerTrap phone app. This uses the phones sensors to trigger the camera or flash, so when the balloon bursts the noise from the ‘pop’ triggers the flash and the burst is captured. It takes a bit of trial and error to adjust the sensor delay so the flash doesn’t trigger too early or late. Also, trying to hit a balloon with a pin on a stick in complete darkness isn’t as easy as it sounds!

In Photoshop I removed what could be seen of the stick and as the theme was Colour Burst, I created a colour gradient in Photoshop, and used the colour blend mode to colour the water.

This balloon decided to spring a leak instead of a dramatic burst 🙂

Well done Zane. Full marks for patience (and  creativity!)

See also:
How I took that Shot - Gráinne Davies
How I took that Shot - Karina Leeson
Competition Gallery
Competition Results and 2016 League Table