The History of Extreme High Speed Photography

What does an atomic detonation look like with a 1/1,000,000 s exposure? If you drop milk onto a red table, do you make art? This article holds an interesting discussion about high speed photography.

Eadweard Muybridge was commissioned to use photography to determine whether a horse lifted all four hooves off the ground when galloping. This led to the famous Horse in Motion images, created in the late 1800s. Photographer Alex Kilbee discusses select iconic images from the beginnings of high-speed flash photography and throughout its history. 

High-speed flash photography is a specialized technique that involves capturing fast-moving subjects with the aid of short bursts of flash. This technique is essential for freezing rapid motion or capturing events that occur in a fraction of a second, such as a droplet splashing or a bursting balloon. Photographers can effectively eliminate motion blur and achieve remarkably sharp images even in challenging lighting conditions. High-speed flash photography finds applications in a wide range of fields, from scientific research to crime scene analysis, sports, and creative artistry, enabling us to witness and appreciate moments that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

High-speed flash photography captivates many of us. As Alex explains in this video, he was fascinated from an early age thanks to a Disney annual he owned as a child, where he learned about Harold “Doc” Egerton, who pioneered the art of high-speed flash photography.

Photography itself began as a scientific process and has evolved into a tool for artists and visual storytellers. With that in mind, it is only natural that images which begun as a scientific record now often stand as works of art.

Lead Image: Horse In Motion, Eadweard Muybridge.

Kim Simpson's picture

Kim Simpson is a photographer based in the West of Scotland. Her photographic practice is an exploration of the human experience, with a particular emphasis on themes of identity and belonging.

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