Monday, June 15, 2009

Water droppin'

A few weeks back I read this post over at the Strobist blog about how to photograph water drops with a single flash. Now this is something I've often wanted to do, but thought I needed some complicated technology to make it happen. Turns out, no. I've had all the things I needed for a while now, but, as is often the case, I was over thinking it. Anyway, I saw this post and thought, "hey, that doesn't look too complicated. I'm gonna give that a try when I get a free weekend."

Turns out, I wasn't the only one with that thought. I checked my buddy Boybarian Dad's blog a few days later, and he posted this. Now the gauntlet's really been thrown. Gotta bring my "A" game.

Setup. After watching the walkthrough video at Strobist a lot couple times I got my gear together.

Canon 50D
100mm Macro lens (most any lens will do)
Canon 430EX flash
AlienBee Cybersync flash triggers
Pyrex Casserole dish
Construction paper (assorted color/pattern)
French's Onion can
Bread bag

I put all this gear together around my dining room table because there was a lot of room to move around, and there was something to hang the bag of water from. In addition to trying out this technique, I also wanted to try out a cool piece of software I just got for my iPhone. Full confession, I'm an app-aholic when it comes to my iPhone. I downloaded this wicked camera remote control software from OnOne a few weeks back and I thought this was the perfect time to try it out. I'm nothing if not ambitious. Go here to check it out.

So I get the camera and tripod set up, camera connected to the laptop, flash triggers hooked up and water filled casserole dish in place. Hard part's over right? Wrong. I need something to hang over the dish and go drippy-drippy for me. No big, I thought. I'll just grab a Ziploc bag, put some water in it, and voila! beautiful drips. Do you know what happens when you fill a Ziploc bag with water and poke a hole in it? Drips? Nope. Nice, STRONG stream of water comes shooting out the hole. I had the good sense to test it with the hole pointing away from the somewhat expensive camera/computer gear arrayed around the dish. Ok, plan B. I needed something that wouldn't be under so much pressure when I put the water in it, so I thought about the bread bag that my wife had thrown away earlier in the day. Yes, I got this out of the trash, I'm serious about my art. After a bit of experimenting, I found that I could poke a hole in the side of the bag and let the water run down to the bottom and drip off. Worked like a charm.

Oh, you might be asking about the French's Onion can. Well, I needed something to rest my flash on, and the onion can was about the right height. And hey, who doesn't like French's Onions? Thanksgiving time, green bean casserole, crunchy onions piping hot out of the oven... Oh, picture taking, water, right, sorry. How 'bout a setup shot? Conveniently labeled for your question answering pleasure.


If you watch the walkthrough video at the Strobist blog you'll get a good idea of camera/flash settings. Let me say, focusing is critical, so make sure you pay close attention to that part.

After getting all set up, I could start playing. You're going to take a lot of shots. If the drops are slow enough, you can make some slightly "planned" shots, but this is essentially a spray and pray situation. After the first few shots, I reviewed them on the back of my camera to make sure they were in focus and that the drops were landing where I expected them. I then started firing away, adjusting the flash position occasionally and varying my white balance to get a variety of colors and tints.

After a few shots like this (ok, fifty) I decided to bring out the secret weapon. Ah hah! Didn't know I had a secret weapon, did ya! Here it is.


Yessir, having kids around can pay off big time for your photography. These little guys look like colored Alka Seltzer and they pack a lot of color in a little tablet. They are made to tint a bathtub full of water, so they were pretty potent in a container this size. They also dissolve pretty quickly, so you don't waste a lot of time/water drips waiting for the water to change color. I started with a yellow one and added a blue one after a while. These things really kicked up the color excitement meter quite a bit.

Alright, enough yakkin', here's the pics.






Just like that, in the comfort and safety of your own home, you too can play with water and have a record of it for all to see. If any of you have a go at this, email me so I can check out what you did! Almost forgot, the iPhone software was sa-weet. Zero setup, worked the first time.


Susan said...

Oh, Wow! Those are amazing! I might need to buy some prints of those :) I love colors. I need me some of those tablets.

Chris said...

This has got to be my favourite post ever. Funny, entertaining, informative and with awesome photos. Love the detail in the labelling of the set up. Funny stuff. Love it.

♥spoiled mommy♥ said...

OK- I LOVE this!! when I seen it on Boybarian Dad's blog, I thought it was the coolest thing ever...both of you guys did an amazing job!!
I love the color here too, I will def. have to get some of those for my lil girl!

Verbenabeth said...

Unbelievably cool! Well. You guys have aced me completely now. Cool Julie with her purple house & giant bunny, and now cool Marshall with ultra-cool photography! Clapping over here on the other side of the country!

SKELLER said...

A game, indeed!!! Awesome-ness! Super fun way to while away some time and justify your photographic expenses!!! ;-)

I'm for sure bookmarking this page, so when I start begging Big Dude for a flash, I can say, "Look! Bdad and Marshall have one...."

Bekah said...

wow. i feel so insignificant. all i do is take pictures of cats...

Corey~living and loving said...

love your set up. :) Your photos are fabulous!

I just posted my first water drop shots today too. I did mine handheld...and it wasn't easy. I had a cramp in my hand for days. LOL

I love the tinting. I used food coloring. :)
have a great day!

Allison said...

So freakin' awesome, Marshall! I love it!

Anonymous said...

Let me just say,"darn it" you pulled out the secret weapon. Isn't always best to let someone go first then you can trump them :) I must say, hats off to you my friend.

These totally rock the house! It is so cool how we have some of the same splashes but such a difference in colors, i love it.

Alright, I think we should start this as a little challenge, "GAME ON" :). Hmmm, what should are next challenge be?

Take care,
B Dad

Julie said...

those pics are awesome... you are uber talented!

imbeingheldhostage said...

This sucked. We had a storm recently which means my broadband is again slower than the slowest dial up and I can't see anything!! I can just read how wonderful it is am I'm staring at no pictures :-(

I'm trusting Julie that this was really cool.

(you thought I was saying the post sucked, huh-- never!)

fxmixer said...

Thanks everyone! I'm glad so many are enjoying this one.

MJ's doghouse said...

these are absouloutly beautiful pictures.....but being a bit of a dork...i especially like the picture showing the set are as nutty as your wife....but seriously...awesome amazing photos....

Mike Wong said...

Fantastic! I love the labels in the setup shot. Great photos too. I'm definitely going to have to try this out at home!

Wendy in burbank said...

Totally Awesome shots Marshall!
You and Julie are so totally matched it's rather mind boggling :)

Darcy @ lwm3b said...

Request: Would you consider allowing full feeds? I can't see any of your pics on my reader. :(

It's a blogger setting - an easy change.

That said....

wwwwooooooooowwwwwwww. B Dad was full of P&V after seeing this. And he was right to be.

This is awwweeesome!

OhCaptain said...

Just awesome!! I'd really love to try this at home, but my wife can't find a purple coach purse she actually likes. It's really ticking me off. I'm this close to reproducing everything, just can't get a purse.

Enough kidding...this is really awesome stuff, really hoping I can give it a try. Got any good articles on making a homemade lightbox? The Mrs has me on a mission to do some food shots for the kitchen lightbox style...

Katarina said...

Those are so cool. I think I might just have to go and try that this afternoon while the kids are sleeping.
So neat. Thanks for sharing.

Katy said...

These are so beautiful. Thank you for going through the trouble, and pleasure, of doing it so I can just stare at them!

MamáChanga said...

Those shots are sooo cool!! My dh just walked in & I gave him the synopsis, showed him your pics & he said, "that's WICKED!"


Edie Howe said...

Kincaid "pictures"? Dude, oh DUDE! Someone as ingenious as you hangs Kincaid pictures in his home? ARRRRGGGH!!!

Seriously, though, linked here from a petapixel tweet. Good stuff, and thanks for an entertaining read. The color tablets really make the pictures sing.

Now 'scuse me while I go check out more of your blog.

cracuff said...

I think I'll try this with food coloring. thanks for sharing. I love the make shift at home set-up. I do that all the time and my husband thinks I'm crazy.