Project Balloon – first trials

Written by Manuel Faessler
Hi dear visitors and fans,

as I had anounced in the preceding post, I am preparing some smaller or bigger projects and can't show you much before they are done. But because I want to show you guys what I am doing, I decided to make some making-of pics of todays testing-session for one of the projects to come.

In the last couple of weeks you could see a little trend developing around the so called „water wigs" (bursting balloons photographed right in the moment when they burst – most of the time on the head of a model, hence the name). As far as I can judge it, Tim Tadder ( was the first who tried it, so I consider him the „father" of this great idea. I first saw it in the youtube-video of Alexander Heinrichs ( and in the live-show of Krolop&Gerst ( So a salute from me to these great photographers and a big thank you for the inspiration!!!

As I don't want to really copy their ideas I want to make it in my own special way. I don't want to reveal too much of my actual idea, so I just tell you how far I am with the preperations right now and how I made it. First thing on my mind was, that I want to accomplish the task of triggering the camera in a repeatable and technically reasonable way. That excluded triggering manually right from the start. The way Tim Tadder and Alexander Heinrichs (both of them triggered the system via the bang of the bursting balloon) wasn't the best way I could think of (because there are a couple of problems connected to that idea) and I couldn't use the way Krolop&Gerst triggered their system (they used a light barrier through which the ballons had to pass ... they then photographed the bursting balloon as it hit a surface underneath – the lightbarrier triggered the camera with some delay) for my idea.

As I am surrounded by many engineers in my job, all with different tasks and special knowledge I quickly found two colleagues to help me with my idea (THANKS a lot to Roberto and Aleks!!!). Roberto made the controll unit and programmed it while Aleks made the needle-unit und made everything waterproof for me. The controll unit is fully adjustable and triggers the camera and the needle with some delay (adjustable in milli-seconds) in between (you can also switch the order in which they are activated).

But now to the set-up: of course I made the first test above my bath tup as lots of water is involved. This way I had place closed on three sides and a great way to collect all that water. I set up my main flash (a elinchrom Ranger RX with action-head) in line with the optical axis of the cam (above), and an additional effect-flash from behind the ballon (triggered wireless, with a blue colored foil on it) to highlight the splashes. As the last component I used a boom stand to hold the balloon in place.

pictures set-up23

After the light was correctly adjusted I started the mess and tried to figure out the necessary delays for triggering the camera and the needle-device. After the first try it was pretty clear that I had to trigger the camera first and the needle second ... I was really surprised how „slow" the triggering of the camera works. After the order of triggering was clear, I worked on the delay in 50ms-steps (picture) and finally got to 205ms (last picture).

After that test I know what has to be done to make the actual shooting a full success ... ;-) ... the needle-unit has to be improved and I need to get some better colored foils to highlight and color the splashes and droplets. If you are interested more specifically in this project, let me know ... I'll be happy to give you more detailed information on how I will do it.


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