High-speed photography won't know what hit it

Camera flashes are too slow. We’re fixing that.

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Nearly there! More than a year since I first had the idea to create a new kind of high-speed flash, and six months since I started working on it full time, it’s almost time to unveil the Vela flash to the world. It has been a week since the final enclosure prototypes arrived, since which I’ve been flat out taking product photos and filming the Kickstarter video. The really fun bit though has been doing a proper round of testing in the studio. This time I graduated from my studio in a box to use my office meeting room. I was lucky enough to get hold of one of the final production prototypes of the Triggertrap Ada sound trigger. Rich Harley, Triggertrap’s Head of Product, brought it over to Vela Labs and we spent a day running comprehensive tests on both of them.

I’m happy to say that the results exceeded even my best expectations, and you can see some of the photos on this site and our Flickr page. The Vela prototype worked flawlessly, and we gave all of the functions a thorough workout. I was glad to get a chance to test slave support for the first time, as we connected a speedlight to the Vela slave output and used it for fill lighting. See my selfies for one example. I’ll share some more after the unveiling. I was also really pleased that despite starting out with some half-empty batteries and shooting pretty much continuously for seven hours, we never even got a low battery warning. I knew this is what should have happened having measured the current draw, but it was still nice to see it working in practice! It was also great to play with the Triggertrap Ada, as I hadn’t touched a prototype since I left the company earlier this year. It performed like a charm, and I’m super excited to get my hands on one of my own once they ship.

I have spent the last two days finishing the Kickstarter page and editing the video and am now ready to launch!! However Kickstarter is currently taking up to a week to approve hardware projects, so I have tentatively set the launch date for Monday 24th November. I’ve put in a small number of really juicy early bird deals, so make sure to sign up to the mailing list below, which is where I will first be announcing the launch time.

High speed photography has a tendency to be messy (broken glass, water and other flying debris) and potentially dangerous (guns, and that flying debris again). However it’s the need for near-total darkness which can prove to be the biggest problem. Having built a high-speed laser trigger, I needed a way of taking some photos. This presented me with a puzzle, as I work in an open plan office and have small children at home. Neither lend themselves to blacked-out rooms, flying shards of glass and small arms. The solution I came up with manages to solve all of these problems and more, and is I think worth trying even by those who are lucky enough to have access to real studios. For all of the details, see my guest post on DIY Photography.

Testing a high speed flash means I need an extremely fast laser camera trigger. And by fast, I mean microseconds (millions of a second). Having recently finished working on Triggertrap Ada, which is the highest-performance, most feature-packed camera trigger out there, I wanted to go the opposite direction and make the absolute minimal laser trigger. I didn’t care about configurable delays or thresholds: I just cared about speed. I also decided to set myself an arbitrary cost limit of $2. I’ve clearly spent so much of the past year working obsessively to target BOM costs that I couldn’t escape it! I’m only including the cost of components, and not things like cables, breadboards or the laser pointer (or flash).

How to trigger a flash