Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

Photographs of water drops are often inspiring so when my girls were going out for a few hours and left me in charge, I took the opportunity to set things up for another try to capture some interesting splashes.

I’ve shot a few water drops before but I’ve never really set things up properly for it so this time I wanted to do things a bit more advanced. The first problem you face when photographing water drops is how to get the actual drops. Before I’ve just kind of done it manually but I wanted something more consistent and reliable this time around. I’m sure there are a million ways to do this but here’s how I did it (sorry, as usual I forgot to take a setup shot…bad photographer, bad): I knew I wanted some height on things to give the water some speed before hitting the surface, so I used one of my light stands and gaffer taped a wooden rod so it was protruding from the top. I got the rod from our daughter’s play pen, which she has now pretty much managed to demolish completely. I then gaffer taped a plastic bag with water to the end of the rod. After positioning a bowl of water under the bag, I poked a hole in it with a needle. There was an initial stream of water but after it had settled down I got a consistent dripping action going.

Water dropsMain problem solved, it was time to start taking some pictures. I knew I wanted to play a lot with colours for these shots. The previous experiments I’ve done have relied on some funky editing to make things interesting but this time I wanted to keep editing to a minimum – and so I have. All the shots in this post are close to what they looked liked in camera, the biggest changes has been some tweaking of the curves to bring out a bit more contrast and some cropping. By the way, I’ve posted this under macro photography even though it’s not strictly speaking true macro. I think most of these shots were taken around 1:2 or 1:3.

Colours, that meant it was time to bring out the gels. What I did was to use 3 flashes – I know, a bit overkill, but I wanted to play with my toys. One flash (YN560) was used to light the background and was bare with only a coloured gel. Next was a LP160 in softbox coming in from camera left and a bit above the bowl of water, also with a coloured gel but of different colour than the background. Next was a completely bare YN560 that was goboed from camera right so it only hit the side of the bowl. The reason for this was that I wanted to brighten the water a bit and kind of give it a glow from within. I don’t know how well it worked but one thing it did was to make sure the key light didn’t have to work too hard. Being able to shoot on a lower power meant faster recycling times, which is definitely a good thing.

Water dropsAt first I actually tried to use the key light snooted instead, the idea being that it should light only the drop of water in the air, effectively giving the scene three different colours. It didn’t work very well (you can see the result in the last thumbnail at the end of the post) so after that I switched to using the softbox instead. I think the light works pretty well over all and the colours make things pop. With more time and persistence I could have tried more colour combinations, I’m sure there are lots of interesting ones to be discovered.

The hardest part with this shoot was of course to time the shots. I ended up with quite a lot of shots of a rippled surface without any drops to be seen. I can’t say I employed any specific technique for this, I kind of tried everything: randomly pressing the shutter, counting to find a timing, following the water drops. One thing that would help would be lightning reflexes so I could just click the shutter when I see the water hit the surface. Unfortunately I’ve yet do discover any latent super powers of this kind.

Water dropsAnother thing that I noticed after a while was that my drops were perhaps too consistent. I kept seeing the same patterns repeating over and over. Even though I’m fairly happy with the results, if I’m going to try this again I think I’ll have to do some research and see how other people do this. My guess is that I could get more interesting and varied results if I used other liquids than water, milk comes to mind. Using food colouring to get the colours directly in the liquids instead of the light would also give me completely different results. The problem with these ideas is that I don’t like cleaning, so it sounds like it might be a bit too much work to be worth it.

Anyways, those are my thoughts if I decide to do another project like this, time will tell if it will happen or not. For now I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and that I’ve managed to wet your appetite (get it? I know, that was rather low) to do something similar yourselves.

By the way, I felt like giving the blog a bit of colour, quack if you like the new background and squawk if you think I should change it back to the grey one.


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15 Responses to “Water drops and gaffer tape”

  1. Matthew Kunce

    Excellent shots. I played with this concept a few weeks ago and will probably do so again as well soon. There is something so fun about it. What I did was set my self timer to take 9 shots in a row after I pressed the release with a 2 second delay between shots. Get some interesting interactions then in the water. I look forward to see what else you get for water drop pictures.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. The timer idea sounds interesting, though I don’t think it’s anything my little D3000 can accomplish. Another thing I should try to do is to come up with a better system for releasing the water drops, something that would let me control the frequency and perhaps even to some degree the size of the drops. Absolutely no idea how to go about something like that though :p

    • Rifqi

      I actually saw his work shortly before doing these shots, very (awe)inspiring, though it does make you feel kind of inadequate about your own shots :p Thanks for sharing it again.

  2. Martin

    Nice shots, what was your camera set to? I did try to capture water drops several times, but still couldnt get ´the shot´ i like.
    Great blog by the way, keep posting.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. If you click through to my flickr you can check the exif data. Most of them were shot at 1/200, f16 and iso 200 with Nikon 85mm f3.5 macro lens. The shutter speed is pretty irrelevant since I’m using flash though, the flash acts as the shutter since no ambient light is registered.


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