With a photo project, I am kept safe and out of trouble. My wife knows where I am, not getting run over by traffic going through red lights or by motorcycles going up and down the pavement, and not making friends with the friendly, cuddly and adoption-wanting street dogs that abound in the city...there are many I would love to take home. Apartments, though, are not the place for dogs, big dogs.
So, a photo project. Splash photography is always a good one to try. No, I know it’s not original, but it's good practice to improve your techniques and your camera skills. Anything that helps you learn to adjust and adapt settings to the needs of the situation is good, and if it produces a nice result at the end, who cares if it isn’t original...as long as you don’t claim that it is!
So, yes, I have tried the lemon splash...and others...with ordinary results at best...
Strawberry Milk, f/11, 1/250, 85mm, ISO100 (Flash at 1/8 power through snoot)
I’ve also tried water drops, most of us have, but we’ll talk about the ‘Birth of Time’ in a later post!
So this one particular ‘keeping out of trouble’ moment saw me try and take the splashing a bit further, again, not original, but new for me. Different coloured water, splashing at the same time. I think Karl Taylor, (professional photog with an amazing array of work), has done this with paint for advertising work. He used a special contraption to drop into six or seven cans at the same time with stunning results. I don’t have the space or the budget, so the natural solution was to take separate images and place them together in Photoshop afterwards.
The three coloured splash, f/11, 1/250, 44mm, ISO100 (flash at 1/8 power)
The set up was simple. Black card as the background, flash with a single flash gun side on using a snoot to direct the light, the flash on low power to freeze the movement. Shutter speed on my camera defaults to the usual sync speed, but it is the flash that freezes motion. Here I used 1/8 power, in room lit with natural light this was enough, combined with an ISO of 100 to freeze movement and not capture any of the background. In Lightroom I increased the blacks to ensure that any muddiness in the background was eradicated.
A couple of tips though. Plastic wine glasses! They’re harder to break, and not so expensive if they do. Also, plastic ice cubes, (as also used in the lemon splash above), which, when covered with water, look fairly authentic – with the added bonus that they don’t melt. The colours were achieved by food colouring, rather than colouring the image in post processing! Oh and, a big water proof sheet bent to allow run off of the spilt/splashed water into a bucket.
Of course, splashes are about trial and error. I recommend placing a pen in the middle of the glass and focusing on this BEFORE you start dropping and splashing. Once your focus is set, take some test shots to check how the water freezes, you may need to increase/decrease the flash power and ISO. Once you have the settings right, you can then start to try and catch the splash as the ice cube/object hits the water. A shutter cable release helps with timing, as does using the rear articulated screen turned so you can see your hand holding the cube just out of shot; it’s also a good idea not to drop from too high! Especially in your nice tidy kitchen!
I don’t know how many shots I took of each colour before I was convinced that I had enough good shots to make the end result. The tip here is to check images, zoom in and check sharpness to ensure you timed them correctly BEFORE you dismantle your set up. You don’t want to have to set it all up again when you find that you didn’t catch good splashes after all! Trust me! That’s a muppet moment post for another day!
Strangely, the shot of the three colours shown here actually has what could be three stages of the same splash, in different colour. I only realised this months after putting the images together in Photoshop with the aid of clipping masks. I just selected the best splash from each of the three colours, then aligned them in what seemed to be the best colour order. I didn’t realise the sequence at all. Ah well, a happy coincidence!
What’s your technique for capturing a good splash? Share your ideas here! Send me a comment!
The Frustrated Photog.