Water Drop Photography

We are starting to develop some control in photographing water drop collisions. The photos below were created using an ancient 100 mm macro lens mounted on a Canon 100D affixed to a tabletop tripod. A 2 to 5 second exposure was made in a darkened room while two successive drops were released into a martini glass filled with water. A flash (at 1/16 power) was triggered as the drops collided.  In the “umbrella” shape seen in the photos, the “shaft” is created as the first drop plunges into the water in the glass and then rebounds into the air. The “canopy” is created when the second drop collides with the rebounding first drop.


In response to a question we received, we are adding some additional technical details. First, the backgrounds are simply random objects we thought would be interesting. The background in the featured photo is a cloth apron. The other picture backgrounds are simply patterned papers we bought at a craft store. It really doesn’t matter much what one uses so long as it involves small scale random patterns and good color contrast. The narrow depth of field of the 100 mm macro lens helps blur the backgrounds so the focus of the pictures remains on the water drops. We think there are patterns on the internet that can be downloaded and printed that would be equally useful. Here is an additional photo in which a sheet of paper covered in blue glitter was used as a background.

iBallRTW-Water Drops-1

A second point is that the flash was aimed half way between the water drops and the background. If the flash directly hits the water drops, they will become nearly invisible. The angle we used reflects the light through the drops and causes highlights because the drops act as lenses bending the light and sending some of the flash towards the camera. The lens effect is especially apparent in the photos with nearly spherical water drops where the background is inverted and reversed from left to right within the drops.

A final point is that focus is critical for good shots. We switched our lens to manual focus and one of us held a pencil tip on the water at the point of impact of the water drops while the other focused. Since the Canon 100D has live view, we first focused at 1x and then 5x and 10x to make sure our shots would be sharp.

We are still learning how to make these photos but would be happy to answer any questions we can.

Another Diversion: Macro Photography

We are still in photography class instead of travelling. This week, we worked with extensions tubes to use normal zoom lenses for macro work. We took some interesting pictures of liquid drops. Two of them are shown here. These pictures capture milk being added to coffee. We call the first E.T. and the second The Wizard.


A little diversion: high-speed photography

We travel when we can and are mostly travel photographers. However, we are at home now and decided to take a photography class. One of our assignments required us to experiment with flash, so we decided to use sound-activated flash. Normally, sound triggers are pretty expensive. However, we found something called Trigger Trap that costs $47 at B&H (this isn’t an ad – we are just telling you what we used).

The Trigger Trap uses an iPad or iPhone  application to detect sound and emit a sound via the headphone jack (sorry iPhone 7 users). We put the camera in bulb mode in a dark room and attached the trigger to an off-camera flash.

We then got an unbreakable plastic glass, filled it with colored water, and dropped it into a plastic pan. The sound of the glass hitting the pan triggered the flash. Everything was set on manual in the camera (including focus) and the flash was in manual mode to minimize shooting delays. We had a lot of trials and the photos below show some of the better results.

As an aside, we also tried using the Trigger Trap with an Android phone. It very rarely worked. A little Googling showed us that, when sending sound to the headphones, Android phones have a longer time lag  than iPhones and iPads. Normally, this doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, but it this case it caused us to miss too many shots.

We would include the photo specs for these images, but they don’t really mean much since the flash itself determined the exposure. With the flash at 1/8 power, we found that f/8 or f/9 was reasonable. A remote trigger was used to open the camera shutter and close it after dropping the glass. The shutter timing did not require any precision.