Colorful Water Droplets

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I’ve been reading the book Understanding Flash Photography, by Bryan Peterson.  In nature photography I often use my flash coupled with a Better Beamer to add fill light to my bird images.  But I want to learn more about using flash indoors, in more “normal” scenarios.  One of the ideas in the book is to use flash to photograph colorful water droplets.  I was intrigued by the picture and decided to try for myself.

Splash with a Shine - colorful water droplets
Splash with a Shine

This picture is really easy to make.  First you get a colorful cloth or towel and put it behind a clear bowl in the sink.  Then you turn on the water and let it drip.  Use the flash to illuminate the droplets.  For the image above, I used my 7D camera with its on-board flash, and I also configured it to be a flash master and trigger my external flash.  So I had two light sources.  Rich said our kitchen was very bright.  But he liked the images I showed him from the back of my LCD!

Balls of Water - colorful water droplets
Balls of Water

It’s fun to see what images you get using this technique.  Sometimes you get the cool splash, like my first picture.  Sometimes you get the tiny droplets before they hit the surface.  Sometimes you get the “crater” made in the water’s surface as a drop hits.  And sometimes you get a lull in the action!

Water Beads - colorful water droplets
Water Beads

The first night I experimented with this technique, I used several different colored towels as my backdrop.  Those images typically had two to three colors in the water droplets.  I was surprised how much the color reflected in the water droplets.  Then I switched to using colorful fabric instead, where the print had more color packed into a small region.  That yielded droplets with every color of the rainbow.

Bubbles! - colorful water droplets

At one point I turned the water on full-blast and watched the little bubbles it made in my bowl.  Again I was surprised at how much color reflected off my towels.  If I remember correctly, this image was made with my 5D Mark III and my external flash alone.

You might be wondering what the setup looks like for this technique.  It’s really simple!  I used my 100mm macro lens and hand-held the camera close to the water droplets.  I used manual flash settings for both my flashes, dialing back the power to about 1/64 due the proximity of my camera to the water droplets.  Probably the hardest part was getting consistent focus on the droplets.  I found that I did best to pre-focus on the water surface where the droplets tended to fall.  I also added an overhead lamp since my kitchen was a little dark.

Colorful water droplets setup
Colorful water droplets setup

So the next rainy day, try pulling out the towels and your flash.  It’s a fun little project!! :)

The Splash - colorful water droplets
The Splash

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