The optical method coherent gradient sensing, a real-time lateral shearing interferometry, is proposed for measuring contact stress fields under static and dynamic loading conditions. Feasibility of the method is first established under quasi-static conditions. Under dynamic conditions, the method has been used in conjunction with high-speed photography. The interference patterns representing stress gradients are used for extracting impact load history. Loading rates of approximately 14 MN/sec have been observed. The optical measurements are compared with the computed values obtained using finite element simulations.