Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500.

[Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 - $241; Canon 430EX II speedlight - $208; Jasmine the Cat - priceless]

I wouldn't ordinarily attempt this kind of precision shot with a cheap automatic camera. But I needed a photograph for Thrifty Thursday, so here we are.

In high-speed photography, motion is typically frozen with a quick burst from an off-camera strobe. The secret is a dark room and a camera with an open shutter so that the only light originates from the flash. The shorter the flash duration, the sharper the shot.

As much as I love the little Panasonic digicam, the lack of manual control is a real problem in this application. The lack of a connection for an off-camera flash meant I needed to hand-fire the strobe. In a darkened room the Panasonic exposes for about 1/8 second. That's not long. My timing had to be precise.

After some practice, I could hit the window about half the time. Not great, but workable, and this system operates for a fraction of the cost of the more expensive SLR gear.

The Panasonic does have a built-in flash. Why not use that? Consider the aesthetics of lighting from the camera:

The flash reflections on the droplet aren't as pleasing, and harsh shadows fall distractingly on the backdrop.

The green field, incidentally, is just a sheet of posterboard from the supermarket:

As to the cat, she was unplanned. She inserted herself in the sink to get a drink from the tap, and I walked away with a much more interesting shot than I'd intended. Some photographs are just lucky.