Catching a Bullet in Mid-Air

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

So it only took 719 frames to finally get a picture of a bullet leaving a gun at a police training facility on the west side of Chicago. I believe that light streak at right is the actual bullet. The casing is peeling off from it at top like a space shuttle rocket booster. When all was said and done, I had inhaled enough of the explosion gases and been pelted with enough casings to last me awhile. The paper was doing a look at how police procedures have changed due to improved understandings and best practices. The firing range supervisor didn’t want me to step out too far, and I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I shot backwards with an outstretched arm. I stood on the same line where this recruit was standing. I found that 1/30th worked best since it left open the shutter long to capture the unpredictable moment of the gun flash but without causing too much camera shake. There was no countdown prior to their pulling the trigger, so I laid on the shutter in anticipation of when it would happen. More than a few times, the camera stalled because the buffer would fill up before the actual gunshot. Or even when I did guess right, the flash of the gun occurred between the 8 frames/second and the resulting image was dark. Argh!  I was grateful for digital. Had it been film, I don’t think I would have lasted for twenty rolls, not knowing if I had captured it.

Alex Garcia

5 Comments

  1. Very nice!

    I suppose this could be a situation where one could switch to a video mode, record 30 or 60 frames a second with a high enough shutter speed and just grab the right frame… But I guess the significant trade off is the reduced resolution. And you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of the hard work it took to get the shot.

    Anyway, this is a really sweet shot.

  2. Even worse resolution than that. At 30fps, you can shoot at 1920x1080p = ~2MP, for 60fps you can shoot 1280x720p = ~.9MP. Not sure what the resolution requirements are for a halftone print, but it would be okay for web. Probably about it.

    Glad to see you reply to comments on here! Great to talk with local photojournalists from time to time. You guys have a great crew at the Trib!

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