Hooping Photography Shows Physics in New Light

Light Trails: Photo by Jeremy Running

Light Trails: Photo by Jeremy Running

Over at Physics Central, they’re talking about how LED hoopers and fire hoopers are showing physics in a whole new light. What does hoop dance have to do with physics? Photographer Jeremy Running explained, “I was a child with a fascination with the power to stop time, and an intense draw to technology. As an adult, my love for photography allows me to combine the two in a creative and artistic manner, pausing time and light forever.” His photos may have paused an instant in time, but they also show that even in that instant light is still traveling.

Physics Central explains, “When a photographer takes a picture his or her camera shutter opens and closes quickly, so quickly that most motion appears to stop when the picture is developed or, in the age of the digital camera, appears on the screen. Light travels much faster than the shutter can open and close, therefore allowing the camera to capture where the light has been in the time that the shutter was open. Light travels at 3×108 m/s, whereas a camera’s shutter speed can reach as fast as 1/8000 of a second, meaning that it stays open for one eight thousandth of a second, which is still really fast, but during that time light could travel 37,500 meters which is about 23 miles, 3.2 miles shy of a marathon.” Read more: Physics Central

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3 Responses

  1. angelalucard says:

    Love the article!

  2. tringsthings says:

    This is a strange article, most of the physics is correct, but some of it is really quite misleading. For example the relationship between the shutter speed and the speed of light will make no difference to the picture. Pictures taken with a slow shutter speed show how a light source has moved between the the time that the shutter opens and the time that the shutter closes. The time the light takes to travel a few meters from the light source to the camera is really really tiny and won’t make any difference to the picture. I think maybe the author has confused light with a light source or something.
    Also no one can manipulate the force of gravity. Hula hoops may sometimes look like anti-gravity devices, but unfortunately they aren’t. If they were I’d be flying around on mine. As it is, I still have to use my broomstick.

  3. To be honest, the physics explained here don’t actually describe the process of capturing photos such as the one featured here. When I shoot fire and light performances, I’m actually using a combination of a slow shutter speed and the instant light-speed enhancement of a set of strobe lights. The shutter speed is typically a half-second or longer, creating the trails from the fire or glow toy. At the very last hundredth of a second (0.49 seconds), the strobes are triggered, exposing the performer within the frame. The order of this is important so that the trails indicate where the performer’s glow or fire toy was, rather than where it will go. So in a way, the article’s inclusion of the advantage of the speed of light does actually apply, but mostly to expose the performer properly. Without that blast of light at the end of the exposure, the performer would be blurred out and unrecognizable. But as the toy twirls and spins about, the long exposure allows the illumination of the toy to “paint” light across the frame. The pattern possibilities are endless!

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