Water Drops

Water Drops

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These photos are a result of a slow Saturday evening. My weekends are usually booked with clients, in and out of town, lots of driving, shooting, and long days. So when a weekend comes around when I don’t have to leave town or have a group of shoots, it kind of freaks me out. Hence the result of this last Saturday. Did a bit of photography studio training for a commercial client’s employees, and a bit of graphic design, but the later half of the evening left me wanting to photograph something, something new. I decided to freeze water in motion, cause… well, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from portraiture. This is one of the things I mention in my workshops when talking about advantages and disadvantages of photography and cameras in relation to the human eye and our perception. Sure, you can tell someone that they can freeze motion with a camera, and they’ll most likely think of catching someone laughing or someone jumping in mid air. That’s fun and all, but man… it gets a lot more intense and interesting than that. I’m talking about magic that can happen while playing with 1/8,000th of a second captures. At these speeds you can literally see science, the whole action/reaction sequence at play.

I’m hoping we all have heard of surface tension, the resistance to an external force, entering water for example. Think of water as having a skin, just a really thin skin. It’s the reason bugs can sits on top of water, and the reason you see the reaction in these photos. A drop of water hits the surface, that same drop of water is tossed back into the air much like a trampoline when you jump on it, never breaking the surface tension until it then falls back into the water. A column of water follows the drop of water back into the air, an exact opposite reaction of force that the drop applied to the surface upon first contact. Even when you throw water through the air, the tension of water keeps it relatively globbed together as it travels (as captured in the later photos in this post). Science, random acts of force applied, and capture timing all at play together, so every photo produces something completely unique.

To capture at high speeds to prevent motion blur, you need to either have a super bright constant light source, or a flash to achieve super fast shutter speeds. Technically, with flash you don’t need to capture at a high rate of shutter speed, ’cause the flash pulse is acting as your window of time in which light is exposed to your camera sensor (flash pulses can be very fast, like 1/10,000th of a second. So, if your flash pulse lasts only 1/10,000th of a second, and it’s the only light to hit your sensor, then you’ve effectively only captured that duration of light, which is definitely fast enough to capturing water in motion.

I spent a couple hours getting these shots. Playing around with different colors, angles, and lighting, I got a bunch of different compositions. Of course it took a while to get good at timing the drops. Going through the process, I had a newfound appreciation and awareness of just how spot-on you have to be. Timing came down to hundredths of a second, making or breaking whether I got an interesting capture or not.

After the drops came the tossing of water. A shot glass filled about halfway, the water tossed straight up in the air. Really simple, and got some fun stuff. Ended up turning all of the tossing photos on their sides in post, I think they look more interesting that way. Lighting is what makes or breaks all of these shots, no surprises there.

This was my first time through this, but I plan to revisit with a better setup and approach to get better photographs. This was a super impromptu shoot, and conducted in my kitchen. Next time around I’ll most likely do it in the studio and use lessons learned to make this a much easier and faster shoot. Anyone can do this kind of a shoot with a DSLR and a flash, and of course… patience.