Up until now I’ve been using a photogate sensor and the Camera Axe to take pictures of water and milk droplets. After some research I found many – people – online were using solenoid valves to create droplets and take pictures of them. The big advantage to this method is it’s easy to collide drops which is was very difficult and random using my old method. I decided I’d make a new valve sensor (pre-built version available here) for the Camera Axe and document how to make your own since I didn’t find any detailed instructions or part lists on the web.
I knew I wanted to have a way to trigger my camera on a fairly long exposure in a dark room (I use a 1 second exposure). Then make a water droplet. Wait a little while. Make a second water droplet that would collide with the first droplet’s splash. And then wait a little more until the collision before triggering the flash. With this in mind I started making the different pieces I needed and connecting them together.
Next I had to find and order the parts.
- Custom PCB (Schematic and Eagle files above)
- TIP102 Transistor
- 1n4004 Diode
- 1K Ohm Resistor
- 3.5mm Jack
- 8 AA Battery Holder
- (2) 2x Screw Terminal
- On/Off Switch
- Solenoid Valve
- 3.5mm Cable
- 20cc Syringe
After assembly here is what it looks like:
I also made a new version of the Camera Axe software with the valve sensor. You can download this new version (3.0.03) from CameraAxe.com.
Using it with the Camera Axe
Plug your camera into Camera/Flash1. Plug your flash (or flashes using a splitter cable) into Camera/Flash2. Plug this new valve sensor into Sensor1. Below is a picture of my setup. It has two flashes, a camera, the Camera Axe, and the valve sensor.
Go to the valve sensor menu. Set drop1 size to a good starting size like 80. Set drop2 delay and drop2 size to 0 (we will start with only a single drop). Set Flash delay to around 200 ms. Then turn off the lights and press the “Set” button. This will trigger the camera and the flash. Now adjust the flash delay by 10 ms increments until you have a good droplet picture. Below is a video sequence of 20 images stepping through a milk drop splash. The images go from 220 to 420 ms.
If you want to do colliding drops timing is more complicated. As a starting point I’d suggest a drop1 size of 80, drop2 delay of 40, drop2 size 50, and a flash delay of 200 ms. Then adjust the flash delay until you find the time of collision. Then you can start adjusting other timing parameters to get all sorts of different types of pictures.
You can find lots of photos (including droplet pictures) on the Camera Axe flickr group. Below are a few of my favorites from yesterday.