High-Speed Photographs of Water Balloons as They Burst

popping balloon

London based photographer Edward Horsford photographs balloons in a very inimitable way. Horsford refined the art of photographing a balloon full of water as it explodes. Capturing these images, however, requires special equipment, tons of patience, and of course, quite a few balloons. Horsford’s pictures are taken with an improvised sound trigger, strobes, and a corroded stick.

balloon popping

Captured on camera at an absurd 1/40,000ths of a second, Horsford’s photos show the magnificent instant water balloons burst at a rate that is just impossible to see. Horsford burns the midnight oil many hours in his back garden in London during nights and shoots the complex patterns made by the unpredictable pops with micro-second, timing and precision.

grabbing water balloon

There is an image that shows a near perfect sphere of yellow colored water just a moment after the balloon burst leaving a standing glob of liquid on a person’s palm. A different picture depicts the wrinkled skin of rubber as it clings to a globe of H20 in the air just before it disintegrates. Horsford elaborates on the tricky process.

water balloon exploding

“As it’s a rather messy process, I have to shoot outside,” said Horsford.  “The irony of the shoot is that while they are bright and colourful I spend all this time working in the dark.” For Horsford, the technique involved is still a work in progress as he continues to search for more shapes.  He is constantly trying out and experimenting with  new methods for his project.

exploding water balloon

“I can also vary size, position, shape, and where and how my hands appear in the image,” says Horsford.

“For lighting, the angle and direction make a huge difference, from hard and striking lighting to more general illumination.   A large factor of the final images is about timing, so I experiment with that a lot, and make very fine adjustments.”

popping water balloon

While the results are a product of much hard work and perseverance, Horsford acknowledges that luck plays a role on the outcomes. No two balloons burst alike, and the water is so very unpredictable.”If I have a specific image in mind, it might take quite a few tries to get what I imagined.”

water balloon popping

Check out his wonderful spheres of exploding H2O here.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.