Exploding Balloon


Hello All,
Several months ago I worked on a photography project to capture a rapidly moving object frozen within a fraction of time, for example an exploding balloon.

The technique for doing this is to setup the shoot in a dark room.
Set your camera to bulb mode and press and hold the shutter release to keep the shutter open.
Use an electronic component attached to your flash which sets off the flash when a sound is detected.
Popping the balloon would trigger the flash and the camera would capture only that instant in time and because the room is dark before and after the event, nothing else is in the frame.

I purchased an electronic component from HiViz.com. It’s called a Multi-trigger kit. It came un-assembled and I had to strip the wires myself and hook up the connections to the breadboard by myself. It took me an entire weekend to understand all the connections and go step by step in attaching each wire. It was a slow process and required my utmost attention. It was quite fun.

Then I attached my Canon 430 EX II Speedlite Flash to the sound trigger by means of a hotshoe flash adapter. I needed to do a bit of soldering to attach the cables together. Good thing I already had a soldering iron which I bought a while ago from Radio Shack.

The camera I used here was my trusty Sony NEX-5N with the Carl Zeiss 24mm F1.8 E-Mount lens. I am very proud of this lens, it is a amazing piece of glass. I didn’t pay much attention to the controls, but the exif data shows I had the ISO set to 400 and the aperture at f/1.8.

The first couple of attempts were not coming out good as I had expected. I had to do a bit of trial and error to get the image to come out just right.

Flash too close

Flash too close

Here I had the flash too up close to the subject and even at the lowest power setting it was too much light.
I moved the flash unit back, and mounted it on its own tripod, and pointed the flash head upwards so that the light is attenuated.

Testing Sound Trigger

Testing Sound trigger

Here I got the lighting just right, and I tested the sound trigger by tapping my fingernail onto the cardboard to generate sound.
The sound trigger was sitting right next to the sound (as can be seen vaguely in the image). It activated the flash properly.

Now I am ready to inflate the balloon and let it rip. I used an extremely sharp x-acto knife to do the dirty work, swiftly, cleanly and easily. I had to surgically go in and pop only the balloon without making any other residual sounds, otherwise it would trigger the flash inadvertently.

First good pop looked like this.

Exploding Balloon

Exploding Balloon

I adjusted my angle of attack and went after another balloon and you can see it popping sideways.

Exploding Balloon

Exploding Balloon

I was pretty happy with how the results came out.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on this photographic adventure. Please message me below if you tried something similar or have questions about my setup. If you’ve done something like this I’d love to hear what challenges you faced.

Thanks for reading.


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