Animation sequence of a horse in motion. Muybridge

Photography, early 19th century – Changed journalism, art, culture, and how we see ourselves

Photography – a way of making a picture using a camera

  • camera – A camera that takes one picture at a time is sometimes called a still camera. A camera that can take many pictures in a row is called a movie camera. A camera that can take videos is called a video camera or a camcorder. A Camera on a phone is called a “Camera Phone”
  • instant photography – made famous by the Polaroid process – each photo is pulled on a paper tab, allowed to develop in a little sandwich outside the camera, and then peeled apart to reveal the print
  • video camera – camera used to make electronic motion pictures. It captures moving images and synchronous sound. A video camera takes pictures very quickly, usually at 25 pictures (frames) every second. When a projector, a computer, or a television shows the pictures at that rate, it looks like the things shown in the set of pictures are really moving.
  • digital photography – uses an electronic sensor to record the image as a piece of electronic data rather than as chemical changes on film.

Four feet in the air

Hidden miracles of the natural world (video 7:23) – We live in a world of un-seeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. Photography slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the wonders of nature.

One of the earliest uses of photography as a scientific research tool took place in the late 1800s. How did horses gallop? Did all four feet come off the ground at the same time?

Contrary to the old “classic” paintings of running horses, which showed all four legs stretched out in the suspension phase, when the legs are stretched out, at least one foot is still in contact with the ground. When all four feet are off the ground in the suspension phase of the gallop, the legs are bent rather than extended.In 1877, Leland Stanford settled an argument about whether racehorses were ever fully airborne: he paid photographer Eadweard Muybridge to prove it photographically. The resulting photo, the first documented example of high-speed photography, clearly showed the horse airborne. more…

This was an problem that had interested engineers and biologist alike. But how to determine the actual mechanism of the horse’s gallop? How to prove it with the technology available in 1877? This is a two part challenge. There are mechanics involved in the horse’s gallop gait. And there is the challenge of using very basic camera equipment to prove it.

  • Ask – Mr. Stanford believed that horses became airborne when they gallop – all four feet are in the air at the same time. There weren’t any video cameras yet. Basic cameras could take one picture then they had to be reloaded. What would prove that all four feet are off the ground at once?
  • Imagine? – One video camera takes many pictures one right after another. Mr. Muybridge, the photographer used several cameras that each took one picture. How could they take a series of pictures when they didn’t have video cameras?
  • Plan, Build – The cameras would need to be arranged and set up so they would take a picture at a very precise moment – a fraction of a second after its neighbor. How many cameras did they need? How did they get the cameras to take the pictures at different times? Getting everything set up was a big job. The cameras were stationary so the horse had to gallop in front of them.: What mechanisms were used to activate the cameras?
  • Improve – Now there are video cameras that take high speed photographs. This is a great example of engineering and man-made technology development enabling study of the natural world. What new discoveries have been made with high speed cameras?

That’s engineering

  • motion – the state of changing something’s position—that is, changing where something is. A flying bird or a walking person are moving, because they change where they are from one place to another. There are many kinds of science and math related to movement.
  • camera lens – the part of a camera that directs light to the film or, in a digital camera, to a computer chip that can sense the light
  • optics – the study of lenses and how they work

Engineering ideas

  • photography, recording, instrumentation, proof, data capture, speed, velocity, acceleration, lens, optics

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Create a model to show the movement of the horse’s legs in a gallop.
  • Make a series of pictures, then “play” them to show movement. This can be an animation of photos. “Play” them as a flip-book or using a computer.

Learn more…