Hawaiian Mercury

It has been a few weeks since I’ve been out for a photoshoot, and this afternoon I felt a desire to create an image.

I decided to re-visit water drop macro photography, so I set about rigging a ‘studio’ to shoot some water droplets of water.

Here’s the result:

Hawaiian Mercury

Hawaiian Mercury

In my initial setup, I placed a tray of water on the loungeroom coffee table, and used one of my cymbal boom stands to suspend a ziplock bag of water over the tray.

Using a needle, I made a small hole in the base of the bag so that water could drip at a consistent rate and in a consistent position.

I set up one of my Speedlites, attached a PocketWizard PLUS II to it and the camera, and placed the flash at 45 degrees camera left, pointing at the backdrop.  I wanted a colourful pattern to backlight the subject, and used my Hawaiian shirt, which produced a pleasing result.

My initial plan was to shoot the water droplets landing in the tray of water, but I found that my setup just wasn’t working well, so I changed my approach and set out to suspend the water droplets in mid-air.  I moved the ‘studio’ to the bathroom, and used the bathroom sink, with the tap serving as a water source.

I repeated the setup with the flash and Hawaiian shirt backdrop, and shot many frames to capture a pleasing water droplet formation.

The lighting and staging wasn’t a huge challenge, but achieving sharp focus on the dripping water was particularly difficult.  I shot well over 500 frames (probably closer to 600).

The problem is that even after achieving focus on the water emanating from the tap, the thickness of the water increases as the drop falls, which means it’s difficult to accurately gauge focus, as the subject’s proximity to the focal plane changes subtly, but enough to become out of focus!

The difficulty is further compounded by the use of a macro lens, to which I had also attached a 1.4x tele-converter, so the depth of field and margin for error was even narrower.

I never quite landed the tack-sharp result I wanted, but I am still pleased with the image.

Water drop photography can certainly chew up a few hours and incite frustration, but when one lands a pleasing image, it’s worth the effort.

It’s been a few years since I dabbled with this sort of photography.  Macro in general is enormously challenging for me (I’m predominantly a landscape photographer, which is worlds apart), and the challenge is increased by the use of water, which introduces timing and focus issues on top of the inherent focus/DOF challenge macro photography presents.

There’s plenty of creative image making to be achieved using water droplets as a subject.  There is more reading and experimentation ahead of me, and I suspect some frustration too, but it’s all part of the process.


2 thoughts on “Hawaiian Mercury

  1. Andy

    Hey mate,
    A pleasing capture in the end. I do like the dark shirt reflections back onto the drop that make it appear like molten metal.
    Question, Why do you use the TC?
    Did you feel that your rig was too close to the water otherwise? A bit of a safer working distance?
    I also think, from my little experience with this kind of shot, that closing down the aperture to say f/22 and increasing the flash power reciprocally still means the flash duration is fast enough to ‘freeze’ water drops.
    Like you said, the other end of the scale from your normal scape shoots.
    Well done!


    1. Xenedis Post author

      Thanks for your comments on this image.

      Re my use of the tele-converter, I used it to increase the size of the subject relative to the frame. I have used my 2x TC before, but this time I went with the 1.4x TC, which is generally a better unit.

      Stopping down to f/22 is unfortunately not the answer, as very narrow apertures result in diffraction, which actually degrades details in the image.



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