‘Making Henderson’s Relish Images with help from the Camera Axe 5’ Part 1
Most people reading this won’t have a clue what Henderson’s relish is. That’s good because we northerners like to keep it that way.
In Sheffield, North of England, Henderson’s Relish has been made for over 100 years in a small factory close to the city centre. Surprisingly it never really took off anywhere else and therefore became a local secret which ‘sheffiedians’ and still very proud of to this day. It goes well in stew, on cheese on toast even on chips/French fries. It’s a little like Worcester sauce (but its better!).
Last year I embarked on a project using Henderson’s Relish and high speed captures. I was going to use the Camera Axe laser trigger for the high speed stuff. I would therefore combine the results with a review on the Camera Axe 5.
As a Sheffield lad myself this was a project I was excited about because it can bridge the gap between commercial product photography and art work. I have wanted to create more artwork so I was intending on making these images as spectacular as possible.
Most of the time I find using laser triggers time consuming to set up. Often the results are so precise that the shots do not look random enough to fully see what’s going on throughout the frame. Sometimes the best captures are the ones done by testing the speed of your finger on the trigger. Often it is these shots that show you how the liquid or other substance is carrying across the frame. However the speed at which the subject is travelling dictates weather this technique will work, for the following series I needed a little extra help.
Camera Axe 5 Review
by mattbrewinphotographer blog
Often as Photographers we need to capture fast moving subjects. Sometimes these subjects are so fast that we cannot react in time and need help from technology.
High speed photography has become very popular due to faster flash durations and homemade laser triggers. All one needs to do is take a quick browse on http://www.Flickr.com. There are great examples of amateur photographers using these triggers. Some of the results are pretty awesome, shot with the minimum amount of equipment.
There are now several laser trigger devices on the market that are designed to work with DSLR and medium format cameras. They range in price and appearance. The Kapture One Toolbox system was one of the first laser devices to come onto the market and is very expensive! This system, created in 1991, is cumbersome compared to the newer designs but is well built and has been tried and tested by many photographers.
Recent alternatives to the Kapture One Toolbox are greatly appreciated due to the cost of the old system. The alternatives include the Camera Axe, Time Machine and newly released Trigger trap. These three triggers seem to derive from home made systems but all should do a similar job.
There are two options when purchasing the Camera Axe 5. You can either buy the cheaper Shield kit, which plugs into a Arduino Uno and requires some assembly. Alternatively you can skip any D.I.Y and opt for the more expensive ‘ready to go’ kit. If you have some knowledge of electronics then you could save some cash by opting for the Shield kit. I may often have to build small sets for shoots but I’m no electrician and therefore will pay a little more to avoid extra work.
When the camera axe arrives it is ready to use straight out of the box (just add batteries), which anybody would appreciate. This gives more time to test the system and get used to it rather than reading the manual waiting for it to charge up.
The First Image in the Series:
The flexibility of the Camera Axe system is why I would buy it. This shot of this Henderson’s relish bottle exploding would need three different elements capturing to composite later on. These would be break, splash and smash. The camera Axe offers different sensors. For this shoot I used the following:
Creating the smash and splash involves throwing glass and liquid about. The camera axe helps me capture these easily by using the Laser trigger.
This is essentially a laser beam between the laser sensor and light sensor. The camera Axe controls the settings and sensitivity of the beam. Set the Camera Axe to ‘Activate’ and when the beam is broken it will trigger all the lights and expose the image. I found it can take a few minutes to set up effectively, however, when it’s working to the settings you require it becomes a joy to use.
Breaking the thick glass of the bottle would be a tricky. It would need to be broken at high speed and this requires a weapon. I borrowed a high powered 22 cal Air Rifle for this project and rented a shooting friend for the day.
This Projectile Sensor is a must if any photographer wants to break objects using bullets. The sensor can project where the bullet will end up in the frame by calculating the speed of the projectile as the projectile travels at constant speed. Consistency is a must when using projectiles. Trial and error testing doesn’t work.
This sensor took a few minutes longer than the laser trigger to set up, but again, when we got it up and running, the results were consistent. We would never have been able to capture the bullet hitting the bottle without the Camera Axe. The projectile sensor was the perfect tool for the job.
*Health and Safety is paramount for these types of shoots. Everything is covered up to avoid liquid and glass shards breaking the equipment. I often use thick clear Plexiglas to shield myself and the camera during potentially ‘dangerous’ shoots in the studio. I may lose a very slight amount of quality from the lens glass with the thick plastic in the way but it gets me closer to the action.
During the shoot
During the shoot the Camera Axe performs consistently and with the new 6 x AA battery holder the shoot can keep going without having to break for a charge. Charging via USB took around 45mins, changing the batteries takes 30 seconds. I prefer the latter as it makes the shoot less stressful. Battery life seems to be around 2 -3 hours.
The cable lengths will obviously be dependent on the size of the set. My sets are large in comparison to a water drop shot so I needed to purchase (very cheaply) about a dozen extra extension cables. This meant I could cover an area of about 6 x 6ft and have the Camera Axe positioned right next to the camera and tripod.
Here is a very crude lighting diagram I drew after the shoot. Lighting is Broncolor Pulso 4 heads right, left and above with Grafit and Pulsoa4 packs. Front lighting is Elinchrom Rapid heads used as fill light. white Pexiglass is used as bounce cards behind the bottle. All heads are set to the fastest possible flash durations.
The delay is the most useful tool that I found in the Camera Axe menus. For me this was similar to altering the exposure or upping the aperture on a location portrait shoot, slowly tweaking the image through visual experience of the exposures. The density and propulsion of the subject is the key to determining the delay time needed. The outer splashes in this shot needed a delay of 0.150 second while the splashes around the bottle could be 0.50sec to 0.100sec. Both the sensitivity of the beam and delay option is balanced nicely to create the desired result. With everything in life this is determined ultimately by experience with the device.
The sensitivity of the laser sensor beam can be seen in the Camera Axe menu when switched on. This is indicated by 0/999. The first number indicates when you want the beam to be cut and the second number is the sensitivity of the beam. If the sensors are not completely fixed in place the numbers will fluctuate as the sensors slip. Seeing this live really helps you avoid mistakes. The second number indicates the strength of the beam. For most shoots you would want the beam to be over between 800 and 999 which would be a nice strong beam.
Crude drawing number 2 is the Camera Axe setup. Photo diaries are ok… drawings keep you guessing!
An example of how the beam numbers would work would be a large rock passing through. This would send the first number to 0. A carefully placed water drop may also send the beam to 0 but throwing a handful of sand at the beam may not take it to 0. This is because of its density and therefore you need to increase the number to something like 200/999. This is balanced by adding some extra delay time so that the sand will trigger the beam in the same position as the rock or water drops.
*We found that using the 650w modelling lights from the Broncolor heads could confuse the sensors a little especially if you wanted to set the beam up near a full strength modelling light. It is best to work in low light. This will also help you see the beam more clearly.
One problem that does let down the Camera Axe is its Camera sync compatibility. This problem is encountered when you need the High speed durations as well as the Shutter sync speeds. This will not affect everybody. High speed durations will freeze the subject when using long exposures as long as the modelling lights are turned off. For those who need this added precision you will need to purchase a custom cable or be prepared to use a different camera. I like using the 1/125 or 1/250 sync because I can still use the modelling lights.
The current camera cables for the Camera Axe are available only for Canon, Sony, Olympus and Nikon cameras. That’s great for 80%+ of pro/semi pro Photographers who regularly shoot with Canon and Nikon. For me and my beloved Phase One it’s not happening.
I have tried the Profoto Air cable and Pocketwizard Mamiya cables but with no luck. Both of the cables have 3.5mm jack on one end and the Mamiya / Phase One camera connection at the other. The results were very inconsistent with the camera triggering either before or after the flash.
Custom cables could be made to overcome Camera model vs. Camera Axe issues. I feel that the amount of custom cables available should be able to solve most photographers’ issue
The final result after a heavy amount of editing and compositing.
No matter how hard you try you can’t react quickly enough to capture the perfect paint throw or bursting of a balloon. If high speed photography is what you want to pursue then a laser trigger will be needed to help you capture that ‘perfect moment’.
The Camera Axe is a good choice and not an expensive investment. The cost is peanuts in comparison to a new pro lenses or pro camera body’s. It offers a good range of sensors, great battery life, fantastic customer service (thank you Maurice!) and in comparison to other devises offers good value for money.
In a nut shell the Camera Axe let me worry about my lighting, exposures and safety of the equipment rather than worrying about timing. This was like having a third assistant.
UK and European users can expect to wait up to 2-3 weeks for the item to arrive from the US (especially if customs get hold of it). Alternatively you could purchase from http://www.proto-pic.co.uk and will save time, but it may cost more.