Photography Assignment Three

The third and final photography assignment at Ottawa looked at the history of photography, with my work specifically emulating and taking inspiration from Harold Edgerton. I chose to emulate his milk drop photograph by designing and 3D printing the drop. The two additional images look at the everyday that Edgerton was interested in, a running tap and card tricks. These were taken with surprisingly low shutter speeds, ranging from 1/8 to 1/15 due to the aperture used. I was unsure as to the success of these images until development and display, where I felt that they worked very well together. The final display of the three images in the frames was more professional than previous displays, adding a sense of completion to the images and project.

Harold “Doc” Edgerton was the first to use strobe lighting to freeze everyday objects and phenomena in motion. Edgerton worked both inside and outside of the studio and photographed in black and white as well as coloured film. Using the strobe light, he was able to capture moments that before, were unlikely to be photographed because of their speed and intricacy. He was first interested in photography through his uncle, Ralph Edgerton, who produced studio photography. Edgerton then went as far as producing his Engineering PhD paper on the use of strobe lighting in photography.

Using an exposure rate of 1/480 of a second, or nearly 30,000 a minute, Edgerton captured one of his most iconic images; a falling drop of milk with splashback, letting the film roll through the camera as though it was a motion picture camera. It must be remembered, however, that the strobe light was the key here in the darkened room. To recreate this photograph, I used the controlled environment of a lighting studio but manipulated the angle of the camera and light reflecting on the object instead of a strobe light and milk droplet. I produced the milk droplet through my own 3D print design, capturing that one moment in the fast-action shot. I chose to make it this way to challenge my knowledge of 3D printing, and to add an element of ‘new’ to the ‘old’. The 3D print also allowed the manipulation of other materials, and further post production development. This challenged my use of techniques learnt throughout the semester in the dark room to produce a final print.

Edgerton also made his first flash photograph without a motor, photographing running water, which transformed into crystal in the speed of the flash. The photographs of water portray a sense of soft destruction that water can cause. I wanted to take another perspective on this, capturing the water as though the tap is just being turned on or off. The image produced was with water running from a tap in the department, working with this idea, but still capturing a single moment of plain running water, such that Edgerton produced. The extraordinary in the every day became apparent to me through this.

The everyday was a continued subject matter for Edgerton, photographing with an exposure up to 1/1,000,000 of a second, demonstrating everything from depressions of tennis balls and rackets to the controlled shuffling of cards between hands. Again, it must be remembered that the strobe played the key role by lighting the subject in the darkened room. With my new understanding of seeing the extraordinary in the every day, I also continued in the same fashion of subject matter. Card shuffling has always been mesmerising to me, and so to recreate a moment of this fast action, I attached playing cards to wire, positioning them to cover the wire, while also appearing as though they are in motion. This was more difficult than anticipated as holding the wire for this length of time took a toll on the model’s arms. The final development of this image, however, demonstrates the control and ‘instantaneous motion’ captured by both Edgerton and I.

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