Saturday, May 28, 2016


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Infinite Backgrounds, Colour and Reflections

I really like the drops with an infinite background. Graduated colour going back off into the distance leaving the droplet looking like it's alone in a giant pool.

Like :

Falling Blue - Front Page! Whoo!

How do you do this?

What you need is to have the light smooth and graduated and well dispersed behind the drop so that from most angles the water refracts the light back to the camera. It helps to have a spread of colours so that different parts of the ripples refract different coloured light so that the ripples have substance.

1). Make sure your drops are hitting your pool of water (pref something like a baking tray) near the middle.
2). Have a diffuser at the back (I use frosted perspex/acrylic)
3). Have your flashes behind the perspex with whatever colours you wish to try.
4).  Aim at the splash site so that you are angled down slightly so the top of your splash spout is below the 'horizon' caused by the back of the cookie tray, leave enough space in front for a reflection.

Different effects can be created by using different setups.

1). One flash pointing down another directly on top of it pointing at the top of the diffuser, black dye in the water

Upturn - Reflected - Explored!

2). One flash pointing at each side of the diffuser - Just plain water
Delicate... Elegant

3). One flash with gel, one without
Sliding Splash


To get reflections you need to have still water. I hold a cup under the stream of drops and let the water calm so it's completely smooth, trigger the camera and then move the cup away and try to capture the first drops hitting so the only ripples are from the initial impact. It takes practice!!

One final thing.. Any marks, water splashes or similar on your diffuser will reflect on the water and show up on your image. Keep it clean and out of the way of kids :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thank you Amateur Photographer!

I hope you will excuse a moment of pure self-indulgence however I'm over the moon today!

Amateur Photographer published a whole 2 pages of my pictures in their latest edition (17th Oct). The first time I've ever seen my stuff in print and it's really a milestone for me. This splash is dedicated to them :) freshly created last night.

I'd like to thank them for publishing my pictures, it's really given me a boost, hopefully if there's a next time I'll have some even more amazing shots for them :)
This shot is for them :
Amateur Photographer Splash

However the real thanks have to go to everyone else that has helped me on my photographic journey so far

My Dad.. His enthusiasm for photography since I was small and his willingness to teach me everything he knows and help out wherever he can (you think your getting back that vivitar 285 flash you 'loaned' me? :) ) really kept me going.

My Mum.. for putting up with the photo-talk when I come round and loving all my pictures.

My Family.. for putting up with kitchen's covered in food dye, no milk in the morning for cereal because I used it all up making splash pics and generally for being great.

And for everyone on flickr for such great comments, faving my pics and occasionally pushing them up into that hallowed ground of 'Explore' :)

Thanks also to all the other 'serious' water drop photographers on flickr who share their methods and wisdom (if I forgot you I'm sorry) : SteveP Corrie Jens VisualAssault Keith2784 Jason Mark Sporys Aylesbury_Mark you all do such great work!

Thank you all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The perils of two flashes...

My local second-hand camera shop phoned me up the other day to say they had a vivitar 283 flash come in for £20. I was down there in a (pardon the pun) flash.

That gave me 2 flashes.. a vivitar 285 with a vari-power module (so I could set the power pretty accurately) and a 283 with a auto-thrystor. Now that's not much good so after a quick look at I went off to maplin and bought a 100k logarithmic pot and a small project box.

If you pull the auto-thrystor out of the front of the flash and plug the 100k pot in then you can VERY accurately control the power (and therefore the speed) of the flash. Then to make it all work nicely I tore apart the auto-thrystor unit, glued the plug on it to the project box and stuck the pot out the side and hey-presto an easily controlable flash unit :)

I plugged the 285 into a hot-shoe adaptor with a pass through and plugged the sync cable that came with the 283 into that. Then attached a momentary switch to the other side and went off to take some shots.

With 2 flashes you can have them behind the drops. A bit of frosted perspex behind them allows you to diffuse the light and you have wonderfully lit drops. However there was a problem. I was getting double images on every shot. The flashes were firing at different times :(

Seems that having the flashes in series, even with a short (40cm) wire between them was giving a noticable (not to the naked eye!) difference in timing.

So now I had to butcher the hot shoe adaptor and the sync cable and wire the flashes in parallel to the switch.. Success!!

Definately Drippy

Simple Reflection


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Splashes.. Variables are in Everything!

So many different things affect the final splash. I've tried to list a few of them below and my observations so far. Things change tho. It could be that something I dont/cant measure is also affecting the drops as well. But it should give you an idea.

The height you drop the droplets from can really affect the final splash.

For most of my shots like :

The height was around 25-30cm

These drops were taken at around 45cm

Strobist Jellyfish (or maybe Alien!)

However you can get some REALLY weird effects if you go up even higher. This picture was taken at around 2m (6.6feet). At this height the 'crown' forms a bubble and the spout goes through the bubble.

Bubble Burst

Choose what liquid you use, Water gives splashier splashes, milk more perfect blobs. It's viscosity and surface tension have a big effect on the final result.

This is the 'resistance to movement' of the liquid. As you can imagine the viscosity can have quite an effect on the final result of a splash. Milk/Oil have different viscosities (is that a word?) and react differently when hit by a drop. I sometimes try increasing viscosity by adding glycerin to water.

This is mostly the temperature of the liquid. Warm/hot water is less viscious than cold water. You get wider spouts with cold water (I think!) Milk works best if it's cold out of the fridge, when it gets warm instead of splashing outward it tends to fragment into other droplets.

Surface Tension
Surface tension of the liquid affects a number of things such as how the crown forms, how tall/wide the spout is etc. I sometimes use dishwasher rinse aid to lower the surface tension of water, it gives really tall thin spouts.

This is when it gets complicated.
Then you have to put it all together and get what you want. OR throw in a random selection of stuff and see what comes out (that's mostly what I do!) however keep a notepad of what you did (pref with reference to the pictures) so you can see looking back what the results were.. What I usually do is a set of pictures and when they copy to my machine rename them with stuff like :

WaterDrops Hot Water 30cm Glyc and Dye 001.jpg

So I can (mostly!) work out what I did.

Note that adding food dye affects surface tension. I think room temperature has some kind of effect, phase of the moon will probabily do SOMETHING to it too ;)

In the end it's chaos in motion... Experiment, try, get your kitchen soaked and covered in dye and hope to come out with 1-3 decent pictures that you can treasure at the end of the night :) (and if you dont.. try again the next night.. even with EXACTLY the same setup you can suddenly end up with 20 pictures out of 50 that make you go 'wow')

I quite often find that out of 500 pictures in a night I might get 5-10 decent pictures and they all come in the same group of 50... *something* went right at that point so it all came together.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Focus & Colouring

Right so your all ready to go.. you point your camera at the water and.. what DO you focus on?

The drops come too quickly to see clearly and one bit of water looks pretty much like another.

What I do is set the drops going and then lie a bread knife across where the drops hit the water. (Why a bread knife?.. it has a nice serrated edge thats easy to focus on). If your doing single drops then have the edge that your focusing on JUST in front of where the drops are landing. If you are doing impact splashes that you want to go out then move it so that you are focusing between 0.5cm and 1cm in front of where the drops land.

SET TO MANUAL FOCUS!! (I always focus up, then hit the button and it tries to autofocus and I have to go back to focusing again! :)

This is where having live-view and an option to magnify the screen comes in REALLY handy!

Other stuff I have used.. Piece of string across where I want to focus, pipe cleaner (really fuzzy works very well!) you can use pretty much anything.

Now you have to see what you want to do to make the stuff stand out.. I'll go into this in more detail at a later date but here's some ideas.

Plain water does not look like much, no contrast between it and the background and it does not reflect light it refracts whatever is behind it.

Put a background behind the drop, colourful, stripy pictures, a nice flower, anything can be a background, all give different effects.


Flash Gel's
Put some clear gel plastic infront of your flash and it will turn everything that colour. I've used a red plastic beaker before with some nice effects. 2 flashes with different colours can give some amazing looks. (I only have one flash at the moment, have experimented with covering half with different colours.. kinda worked)

Strobist Style

These can work really well.. Different colours in the bowl of water and in the droplets can make some great effects. Can be messy!!

Also once the two colours start to mix you can either end up with non-photogenic sludge or something quite unusual.. never sure what you will get.

Halo (Explore #18!!)

Experiment.. try.. see what different colours you can get..


Monday, June 15, 2009

Light, Motion and Depth of Field

Here's how I understand this... (I'm not an expert in this....)

Higher (smaller) aperature = wider depth of field
Higher aperature = more light needed to take a picture
More light (bigger flash) = slower (longer) flash = more motion in your drops
AND... Distance to target (size of final image)

So you have to trade off Aperature (DOF) vs Light vs Distance to target to come up with a reasonable middle area that gives you acceptable depth of field that's well lit.

If you are photographing simple droplet's like :

Mountains of Jupiter

Then it's moderately simple.. the DOF is not very wide (depending on the angle you are photographing from) so you can use a moderate aperature. The DOF needed on this picture is probabily no more than 4-6mm.

However if you are trying to take a picture like :

Milk Sunshade

You can see that the required area to be in focus is MUCH wider. If you look in large then you can see that the drops to the side/back are actually out of focus. But as the ones at the front are in focus then it does not look too bad.

How do you do it?

This is a great calculator for figuring out your depth of field using almost any equipment. Put in how far you are from the target, focal length etc and it will tell you how wide your DOF is.. I try to aim for a minimum of 12mm

However with only 1 flash (Vivitar 285) set to minimum power with water I get really dark pictures without dropping down ISO to around 400 and aperature to F13/F14. Milk is a lot easier as it is opaque and reflects the light so even at F16, ISO100 I can get nice brightly lit pictures.

Tips :
Have a look at the calculator and see what DOF you can get at what distances etc
Take some test shots and see how they come out and work out what you want to sacrifice.

My standard settings (for milk drops)

Canon 100mm Macro :
Distance 34cm (ish) works out to be around 1:3 magnification
F16, ISO 100

55mm M42 lens + 12mm extension tube :
Distance 29cm (ish) works out to be around 1:4.2 magnification
F16, ISO 100

For water drops probabily go to F14 & ISO 200 at the same distances.

You *can* increase the power of the flash you are using.. so you can use higher aperature.. HOWEVER this will mean the flash will be slower and so you risk introducing movement into the final shot.

Try. Experiment, see what works, fiddle around a bit.. and take lots of pics!