Sunday, February 13, 2011

Smashing Bottles

My friend Alain had the great idea to try to get photos of smashing bottles. He supplied the room, bottles, lens, and just about everything else. I brought my flash and rigged up a way to trigger it when the hammer was in just the right spot. Here's the results:

All photos were taken in bulb mode at f/7.1 and ISO 100.

Not all bottles are as easy to break with a hammer as you'd think. There was one kind that seemed to be much thicker glass than the rest and would just bounce off the hammer and put dents in the wall. We finally figured out that taping a screw to the hammer would concentrate the force better. The first photo above is the result of this.

At first we were thinking that we would trigger the shutter to release as soon as the bottle breaks, but then realized that we'd have to compensate for the split second it takes for the mirror to flip up. We wanted to be able to trigger both cameras at the same time and it's likely that they don't have the same shutter delay. Also, we didn't have a connector for Alain's camera. So we changed our plan and decided we'd trigger the flash instead. This worked much better. We'd get set up and turn out the lights, then open the shutter on each camera, then release the hammer. As soon as the hammer hit the bottle and moved part way through it, the flash would fire and expose the frame. I believe the flash duration at 1/64 is 1/15,000 of a second so there's no problem freezing the motion.

Our makeshift trigger system worked much more easily than I thought it would. It actually worked the very first try! We were able to make very fine adjustments so we could control exactly how far through the bottle the hammer would be before the flash fired. To trigger a flash all you need is to touch two wires together. I had a PC cord that was plugged into my wireless flash trigger. I soldered two wires to the other end of the PC cord and then soldered a thick twist-tie to each wire. We used thumb tacks to fasten the twist-ties to the hammer support (seen below) at the pivot, one on each side, so when the hammer swung, the two would touch. As soon as the flash fired we'd close the shutters again so that when the hammer swang back again, we wouldn't get a double exposure when the flash fired again.


  1. Hard work but with excellent results!

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  3. Clever! Perhaps the "bullet through the balloon" shot next! :-)

  4. Joel I just love your work. The effort you put in and the way you display it to us. By the way, long time no see...but the baby has grown. Happy New Year and Happy V Day...It has been a long time. Sorry about that I have been busy but sooo glad I stopped in for this I just think you are all kinds of amazing with the work you do. I love it and thank you so much. PEACE!

  5. WOW. What a post. That setup is intense! Very nicely done :)

  6. Very cool stuff. Thanks for sharing the stats on how its done. I may just try it!