High Speed Photography Pages

Hammerhead Sock

A few years ago one Mark Watson, an engineer who knew me all too well, demonstrated a potato cannon he built from various PVC plumbing components and fueled with hairspray. No more than forty-eight hours later my kids and I had built our own cannon and we were experimenting with lofting various fruits and vegetables over a nearby pond. It was wintertime and although the Northern Colorado Front Range enjoys a very mild and pleasant winter we began experimenting with ways to bring the cannon indoors.

There were three hurdles to overcome:

  1. the smell of the fuel became overwhelming in confined spaces,
  2. the noise of firing the cannon was a nuisance, and
  3. the potatoes made an absolute mess when they struck walls and other obsticles at high speed.

We also wanted to improve the firing consistency of the cannon and to take steps to reduce the likelood of accidents.

These pages describe those efforts and the logical (?) progression we made in to the development of our own brand of high speed photography used to capture images of fast moving projectiles in flight.


The techniques and apparatus described in these pages involve the use of explosive materials, objects with high kinetic energy, and electronic devices containing lethal voltages. This is serious stuff and must be treated with due respect. Protective gear is always appropriate: safety glasses when firing the cannon - ALWAYS, insulating footwear and no metallic hand/arm jewelery when high voltage is exposed - ALWAYS. If you don't have direct experience with lethal voltages then find someone in your community with direct experience and recruit him or her to help you, at least by checking your work and technique. I don't care how old or young you are, PVC pipe can explode and circuitry can electrocute without age prejudice.

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