One of the things I knew I wanted to explore in Havasupai was water… particularly how our perception of water changes depending on the length of the moments we occupy in time. Visually we inhabit around 1/15th of a second. Although this speed allows us to perceive most movement that is perceptually relevant on a pragmatic level, a great deal of motion is either too fast or too slow for us to differentiate (i.e. without any aids, I’ve never been able to watch a bullet fly or a mountain grow).
To get a sense of motion that is perceptible to us, consider the next two images. To me, the first photo looks like a long exposure, while the second looks more or less “normal.” In actuality, both capture shorter fragments of time than what our eyes perceive.
At 1/25th of a second, this image depicts a moment only slightly briefer than what my eyes saw when I was physically present. Based on the how the water appears as a smooth sheet and how the white foam is obviously blurred, it feels like a “long exposure.” Curiously however, this is only true in comparison to other photographs. Our visual process actually blurs the motion even more than this.
At a 1/320th of a second, this image is frozen far beyond what our visual system can process. It looks “normal,” but I believe this is only because photography has familiarized us with thinner slices of time than what we are physiologically capable of perceiving. Within the realm of captured images, a 1/320th of a second actually is a fairly common exposure time.
Conversely, photography has also introduced us to longer units of time than what we naturally perceive. The image above records of several seconds of motion. Long exposures like these are beautiful, but my explorations in Havasupai focused primarily on ultra-fast captures instead. When imaged at high speeds, water reveals some truly unexpected behavior (if you haven’t seen this two and a half minute video of bouncing water drops at 2000/fps, you’re in for a treat).
At 1/5000th of a second the crest of this waterfall looks like an icicle.
This is a vertical view looking directly down at a fast moving creek reminds me of clear jelly.
This image and all the following images were captured at 1/8000th of a second.
An oblique view of the same creek.
Crystal clear bubbles can be individually differentiated in a space that normally just looks like smooth white foam.
Two droplets of water escape as the rest of the water is pulled back by surface tension.
Continue reading »