To photograph insects in flight, an device is essential: the flash unit. Its very short flash allows you to freeze fast motions more efficiently than any shutter. Cobra flashes used at low power give good results since they allow to reach the speed of 1/30,000s. To exceed this value, to work on even faster actions, one must look for specific high-voltage flash units. I embarked on this adventure in 2013 with a simple vision in mind: to cross the barrier of 1 / 100.000s!
To freeze the fastest actions of insects, I am equipped with Hasselblad medium format cameras. The H6D-100c I use now is equipped with a huge 100 megapixel sensor! It is therefore extremely sensitive to motion blur. This led me to look for a specific lighting solution that allows me to achieve an ultra short exposure time of only 1 / 111,000sec.
To take advantage of the power and large size of the high-voltage flash units, I often use an adapter to attach Profoto accessories in front of my new units. The first accessory I tested with the adapter is a 1 x 1,3 feet format light box. Compared to the size of the insects, its surface is gigantic and the lighting of the light box is diffused with desire.
BIG HIGH VOLTAGE FLASH UNITS
For comparison, I placed a Nikon SB-800 flash unit between the MicroFlash Ultra head and its generator. It looks tiny. One understands why a little flash gets a much more punctual light source than the high-voltage flash units.
ANTENNAE IN THE WIND
Unlike locusts, grasshoppers have long antennae. This morphological feature is interesting when photographing their leap. Under the effect of acceleration, they remain behind the head of the insect suggesting the speed of movement.
Hasselblad H4D-40; HC 120 mm f/4
macro ; Magnification ratio : 0,6 ; 1/111,000s at f/11 ; 3 flash unit ; 100 ISO
To understand the origin of the difficulties that I had to face to control my new high-voltage flash units, just calculate the total weight of the equipment used to take this picture of the leap of a cricket. There are four units that weigh 4.5 kilograms each, two 5 kilo power supplies, a Hasselblad medium format camera on which is fit the 120mm macro, 5 tripods and finally the automatic laser photo beam system with its optical bench. I put all this gear weighing a total of nearly 40 kilos around the tiny scene that serves as a runway to the cricket. This figure seems to be totally crasy when compared to the weight of the insect that is less than one gram!
Hasselblad H4D-40 ; HC 120 mm f/4 macro ; magnification ratio : 0,75 ; 1/111,000s at f/12 ; 4 flash units ; 100 ISO.
High-speed flash units !
Pictures could be sharper
Follow the right example
A long discovery phase
FIRST GOOD RESULTS AT 1/111,000 s