Streak Photography

Streak photography gets its name from the way the pictures are produced. They are composite images built up from a single streak (or strip) out of many different images. The images I show here were created using the Time Machine, a motorized rotary table, and a digital camera.

The streak images start with a colorful subject. The image shown here is what I started with ... some flowers and berries in a bottle. The bottle is sitting on the rotary table. The rotary table can be instructed to move by specific amounts. The Time Machine's flash output is used to trigger motion in the rotary table. The procedure is as follows:
   1) take a picture
   2) rotate the subject a tiny bit
   3) take another picture

This process is repeated over and over until hundreds of pictures have been taken from every different angle.





Once the pictures have all been taken they are processed to extract one row of pixels from each image, and a new picture is created by stacking these rows on top of one another. With this subject, if you were to extract a row of pixels near the middle of the picture, you would get the image shown at the left. The sinuous curves are the result of the rotation between each image.

We can take this yet another step farther. We can create dozens of composite streak images at increasing distance from the bottom of the image and build them into a QuickTime movie. This shows us a fascinating view of the rotational perspectives of the subject, scanning from bottom to top. Click on the spiral image at the left to see such a movie.

When the subject is scanned horizontally by rows you get the vertical spiral shown above. If the same procedure is used to scan a set of images in vertical strips, you get a completely different result. The image below is the same subject scanned in the other orientation. Click on the image to see a movie made by scanning every row from the left to right side of the image. 

You can make more interesting movies by creating multiple copies of the images. Click here for an example.

Click Here for multiple spiral.


I've posted a few other interesting QuickTime movies prepared with the streak process. For best effect, be sure the whole movie has downloaded before you play it.

The individual frames in these movies are each fascinating in themselves. When the movie is on your screen there will be a slider at the bottom of the picture. You can drag this around with your mouse to see the individual streak images.

Here's another interesting picture made by the same streak process:

How the Time Machine makes these images possible
The Time Machine is the perfect tool for automating the collection of these pictures. The Sherline Rotary Table is also used.

The Time Machine is set to Timelapse Mode. We configure the Time Machine to trip the camera shutter, wait three seconds, trigger the flash output, wait 3 seconds, and then repeat. The flash output is connected to the trigger input of the rotary table. This means that, whereas the Time Machine would usually trigger an electronic flash, it is now instructing the rotary table to turn. This presents a different view to the camera for each picture. Once started, the system does all the work for you.

Processing hundreds of pictures into streak images is another matter. You need to extract one row of pixels from each frame and build a new picture with them, and repeat this hundreds of times. We have created a computer program to automate this process. It takes about 30 seconds (depending on image size) to build one image. To process hundreds of large files into a movie can take hours of processing.