Update: Yesterday, I accidentally posted this to Google+, so decided to just go ahead and update it. See the bottom of the post for more info.
Okay, the title may be ever so slightly misleading … what I meant was how to catch a bullet inflight with a camera. 🙂
For some time now, I’ve wanted to try some sequence shots of a semi-automatic pistol in action. This weekend provided the perfect opportunity while a photographer friend was visiting and we had a nice warm, sunny day.
(Yes, I know you can stop a bullet in flight with flash and trigger of some sort, but this was done the old fashioned way … pure luck!)
We set the camera at ISO 400 for a fast shutter speed of 1/6,000th of a second at f/3.3 using a fast 85mm lens on a Nikon D700. Then while I did the shooting, my buddy took the photos. Fortunately, I had the MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack on my D700 so the burst rate was up to 8 fps. The pistol was a Beretta Px4 Storm, shooting .40 caliber S&W ammunition.
The highest priority in a situation like this is SAFETY! Everyone wore ear protectors and safety glasses and of course all of the other gun safety rules were strictly adhered to.
The photographer set up about 8 feet to my right and just slightly behind the direction I was shooting. I highly recommend a couple of test shots first, (with the gun) to see where the brass is going when it is ejected – – just to make sure a hot, hard piece of brass doesn’t hit and damage your valuable lens (Or go down your camera buddy’s collar! :-)).
Once we were ready to go, the photographer would start shooting first and the shooter would start shooting as soon as he heard the camera start. Then, typically, we would fire about 3 rounds per sequence.
Overall, we took about 120 images and I was just hoping to get some good photos of the brass being ejected from the pistol, but we got lucky! One image showed the bullet in flight about 6 inches in front of the gun’s muzzle. With the bullet velocity of about 1200 ft./sec., and a shutter speed of 1/6000th of a sec., the bullet actually traveled about 2.5 inches while the shutter was open, resulting in the copper streak.
Update: I would love to retry this with a newer, faster camera like the Olympus E-M1 Mark II. At 60 fps, and a shutter speed of 1/32,000th of a second, I think we could see appreciably different results. Plus, could probably make this image happen with fewer attempts. 🙂