Ever thought high speed photography was complex? It's child's play.


Triggertrap would like you to meet their youngest user, he's already got a firm grasp of high speed photography and he is only six years old! Introducing Eric Barger, and his son Aiden. This father/ son duo have created some of the most stunning balloon burst shots we've seen. They are guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Here at Triggertrap Towers, there is nothing we love more than browsing our Flickr pool to see the awesome content you guys are creating using Triggertrap gear. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So when we came across some amazing water balloon bursts, we got in touch with Eric, their creator. He told us they were part of a photography project with his six year old son, and we just had to find out more...

Hey Eric, tell us a little bit about yourself and Aiden...

I am a father to a very smart little boy, and husband to my sweet wife of 16 years who I met in college. I enjoy sports, sports photography, technology, shooting sporting clays, drag racing, and spending time with my family. I love to photograph waterfalls, star trails, and sports. I have been fortunate enough to photograph NASCAR, SEC college football (American football), high school football (American football), high school basketball, and soccer. I also enjoy aerial photography with a GoPro and DJI Phantom 2. We live in Kingston, Tennessee, USA.

Aiden is a six year old kindergarten student who likes math, science, photography, and monsters. He can be found up and out of the bed ready to photograph a lunar eclipse before anyone else wakes up. He enjoys photographing family events, balloons bursting, triathlons, and high school soccer.

Eric, is photography your day job?

Photography is not my day job. I had no background in high speed photography until we started this balloon project. My college degree is in Civil Engineering. I am vice president in my family’s five generation business (www.bargerandsons.com) and run the precast concrete manufacturing division. We manufacture concrete structures that weigh in excess of 75,000 pounds (34,020 kg). At work I deal with slow, heavy objects–the opposite of high speed.

The Triggertrap Team were seriously impressed by the star shape Eric and Aiden got from this balloon burst!

The Triggertrap Team were seriously impressed by the star shape Eric and Aiden got from this balloon burst!

Aiden, Do you want to be a photographer when you grow up?

No. I love photography but I want to be a 'scien-test' more. I enjoy studying volcanoes, rocks, heat, space, and the Earth’s core. I want to run experiments when I get older.

How did the balloon popping project start?

Aiden has shown an interest in photography as long as we can remember. If we see a photograph that looks interesting, we will sit down and discuss how it may have been taken. Sometimes we try to replicate a style or situation to learn more about photography. Aiden has been using a Canon T5 that he received for Christmas to photograph the balloons. He was insistent on a fast focusing camera that could use the same lenses as my Canon DSLR. He was very annoyed at the lag experienced between shutter press to capture from his inexpensive child camera he used for two years prior. It was also becoming apparent he could make use of the more advanced features found on modern DSLRs. He would take my Canon 5D III and ask in depth questions on why it seemed so much 'faster,' how it was able to focus so quick, and much more. Then he was able to put those answers into action.

Aiden adjusting the flash delay using the Triggertrap iOS app.

Aiden adjusting the flash delay using the Triggertrap iOS app.

Aiden and I like to embark on challenging projects that look fun and allow both of us to participate. Triggertrap has allowed us to photograph the precise moments that surround a pellet impact with a balloon. The original idea came from an episode of DigitalRev TV (Aiden does not watch DigitalRev before anyone asks) where Kai and Lok used Triggertrap to shoot a balloon with an air soft gun. We thought that was a great idea, but we believed Kai and Lok left a lot on the table and that was enough for us to explore the idea further. We worked through every step including the math. In the beginning we used a toy Nerf gun with a needle taped to the foam Nerf dart shot into the bathtub. We later moved to the basement and used a pellet gun.

We have since made quite a few discoveries learning about big impacts and how best to catch a pellet exiting the balloon. We have also shot and photographed a frozen water balloon. The results were fantastic. We made a six part YouTube video series so everyone could watch how we accomplished the balloon photos. Aiden and I presented to a local elementary school class last week regarding our balloon photography. The sixth video in the series was shot specifically for the class we visited.

Could you talk us through the set up for a balloon burst shoot?

A typical balloon burst photo session lasts no more than one hour. We use one camera and a 70-200 IS 2.8 II Canon lens to keep us at a safe distance from the water and pellet. Previously, we used the kit lens with the Canon T5; however, water splashing up on the camera becomes an issue after you burst ten or so balloons.

I set up the camera on the tripod. While I am hanging the first balloon, Aiden will aim and focus the camera. I then place the flashes around the balloon and have Aiden take a few test shots to be sure we have eliminated any flaring from the photo. Once that is done, I take my place with my iPhone, Triggertrap app, and flash trigger at the end of my pellet gun. We both wear eye protection and have protection to stand behind. After I have my aim on the balloon, I will say 'lights' and Aiden will turn the lights off. I will call for the 'camera' and Aiden will work the remote and I will shoot when I hear the camera shutter open.

After each balloon photo, we both review the photo and decide if we should tweak the setup, add more balloons, or adjust the timing in the Triggertrap app. Aiden has a good feel for moving the timing a millisecond up or down. When we have it dialed in, we leave it alone and just shoot balloon after balloon and just concentrate on having a great time. We generally shoot 15 to 20 balloons per session.

What do you guys think of your Triggertrap kit?

Triggertrap has made high speed photography of a water balloon burst possible for us. We can’t say enough nice things about the Triggertrap dongle, flash adapter, iOS app, and support team. We have worked the math ensuring every facet has been accounted for in a spreadsheet to help us dial in our first few shots with an efficient scientific approach. The Triggertrap support team answered several questions regarding average delay between the iPhone hearing the sound and the flash firing. This was above and beyond since we were trying to get the theoretical timing and actual timing to be as close as possible to each other. This is another lesson on the direct relationship of good preparation versus frustration. Without Triggertrap, we would not have any balloon bursting photos and more importantly we would not have the priceless memories we have made along the way. We even got mom involved in the process for a few sessions. :-)

What else do you use Triggertrap for?

We have started using Triggertrap for star trails, water drops, and have started to experiment with the timelapse feature. We are looking forward to incorporating Triggertrap into more of our photography as we realise the potential of the Triggertrap system.

Aiden after cleaning up all the water and realising it was bed time.

Aiden after cleaning up all the water and realising it was bed time.

What is the next photography project the two of you will work on?

Aiden wants to shoot local water birds near the river. There are a lot of ducks and geese he wants to photograph and compare to last year's flock. The birds have started to return after the winter. He believes some of the birds are the same from last year, and I tend to agree with him after taking a closer look.

What did you like best about shooting water balloon bursts?

Aiden: I like how the photographs turn out so clear right from the camera–especially the photos with big impact.

Eric: I like catching the pellets exiting the ballon when stretching the latex or just after exit when the pellet is free of the balloon.

Want to see more?

Be sure to check out Eric's Flickr page for more of his photography and projects with Aiden!

What photography projects have you been up to lately?

Whether it's projects with Triggertrap, ingenious ways to teach your kids, or even something a bit DIY, we’d love to hear from you! Don’t forget to tag us #Triggertrap and @Triggertrap on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Have you taken any awesome high speed shots lately? Yours could be the next big thing we spot on our Flickr pool! And if you've ever fancied capturing a water balloon burst yourself, we've got just the tutorial.

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