Wednesday April 13, SAPC was fortunate to have Darlene Young do a presentation on her particular interest (obsession?), Liquid Art Photography.
It’s always fun and interesting to see someone who is passionate about a topic that also holds some interest for the rest of us and this was one of those times. It didn’t seem like very many, if any, of the club members had tried out this type of photography before, but I’m guessing that might change soon.
Armed with all of the tips and tricks that Darlene shared with us, I don’t doubt that soon the club members will be seen wheeling out of area thrift stores carrying armloads of cheap glasses, towels and tarps as they prepare to have fun smashing things in the interests of art!
But I’m getting ahead of Darlene’s story.
She advises us that we can start with an easier project like “simple” water drops with not much more than a little imagination, a deep dish, a water dropper and something for a colourful background.
Here are a few tips from Darlene for this type of photography.
- The set up can be as simple as filling the dish so that the water is even with the edge of the dish. Pre-focus on the area the water will drop to. You can use a pencil or straw across the top of the dish. Put something in the water that will stand up.
- Use your auto focus or do it manually. Remember to not shoot with auto focus on. It will not be fast enough to catch the drop. Always turn IS off on your lens. When your camera is on a tripod it can cause a very minor shake causing your focus to be off.
- So find your favourite piece of paper, tinfoil etc. and prop it up behind your dish. You can also position flowers behind the dish and catch the reflection of the flower in the water drop.
- Use a plastic water dropper suspended above the dish. It can be as easy as stacking some books on each side and placing a piece of wood on top. Tape the water dropper to the middle of the wood. This gives you more stability and the drop will hit in the same spot each time.
- For a beginner you can use your on camera flash to stop the action. Off camera flash gives you more flexibility.
- For water photography you should use an f stop between f11 and f16. You want as much of the drop in focus as possible. Start at ISO 100, F11 and the shutter speed will be around 1/250th of a second.
- If using off camera flash your shutter speed is always dictated by the flash sync speed. Most are 1/250th of second, some are 1/200th of a second. If you aren’t freezing the motion up your ISO. I start with a single flash set at 1/32. If I need a touch more light I bring in a piece of reflective material such as white foam core board. Light from the flash will reflect off the white surface giving you more light on your water drop.
- Another set up idea is using a piece of translucent paper and put your flashes behind it. This will diffuse and spread the light. Add food colouring to the water to give you a different look.
- Now water drops don’t always have to be done with dishes. You can use the kitchen tap set to drip. Tape a piece of colourful paper behind the tap so that you get some great patterns in the drop. Still using the same type of set up as before. Tripod and camera set up in front of the sink. Off camera flash to the left, leaving room on the right for a reflector if you need it.
- Be creative. Use a photo of the earth behind the water drip. It looks like a small globe in the water drop. Use a piece of scrap booking paper with little maple leaves all over it and catch the reflections in the drop.
- One tip for you is that if you want the maple leaf or some symbol to be upright in the drop, tape the piece of paper upside down behind the drip. Refraction will make the maple leaf appear in the drop upside down. So you have to flip the paper so that the reflection is right side up.
- A quick note about liquids. You don’t always have to use just water. You can add glycerin to the water which will make the water drop have a bit of an oily look but can be cool with an abstract pattern. You can use milk or cream. If I am after collision drops, where one drop hits another I like to add Guar Gum. Guar Gum is a simple thickener that you can find prepackaged at the Bulk Barn or online. Changing the viscosity or thickness of the water can give you better drops.
Once you’ve been successful with some of the simple drops and collision shots and you’ve created some cool “crown” photos from splashes colliding with drops you can move on to some of the more elaborate setups with fish tanks and fruit amazing underwater shots. Below are more tips from Darlene.
Fish Tank Photography:
- Everyone has seen shots of fruit with splashes. Fruit underwater, flowers underwater, etc. A 10 gallon fish tank is a cheap, fun way to get these shots. You will need off camera flash for this. On camera will only reflect on the front glass panel and ruin the shot.
- Set up is simple. Put your tank somewhere that can take the weight of the fish tank filled with water. Remember there will be splash! Cover surfaces you don’t want to get wet. Cheap tarps, old towels and blankets are great surface protectors.
- Now fill the tank in place because you do not want to carry a filled 10 gallon fish tank. If you are not using distilled water you need to let the tank sit for a while so that all the bubbles you create pouring in the water have time to go away. Distilled water will speed up your start time but is also more expensive than tap water.
- An essential tool for a fish tank session is a squeegee. As you toss fruit and veggies into the tank you introduce air. This makes fine bubbles on the inside of the glass. It is next to impossible to remove these in post and they don’t add to the photo.
- Set up a piece of foam core behind the fish tank. If you place the foam core close to the back of the tank your background will be a nice bright white. If you want a darker background, move the foam core further back.
- I place a flash beside the fish tank and one above it. F11-16, ISO 100, Shutter dictated by sync speed.
- Place something in the tank and set your focus before you start.
- Using a remote allows you to drop your fruit or vegetables into the tank while taking the photo at the same time. Timing will be an issue at first yet the more you practice the easier it is.
Even more advanced and by the sounds of it a little bit tricky to get right but well worth the effort is the;
Skateboard /Glass Splash:
- So if you are setting up for a sliding splash session you can use the same lighting set up with a few tweaks for throwing glasses. You can start by just putting the swimming pool on the table you are going to work with.
- Place a towel or something soft inside the pool. This will save you many, many glasses. If the glasses have a soft place to land you will have much less breakage.
- Glass splash is so easy and fun. Make sure to put something in place to pre-focus. So I don’t use anything to mark the spot but you might want to consider some sort of marker so that you know where you want to toss. It can be as easy as placing a long piece of doweling level with where you want to hold the glass to start the toss. Shot wide so that you catch the splash as it flies through the air.
- I began with a skateboard on a ramp. It is really messy and a whole lot of fun. Using a skateboard is more advanced only because you have to do some DIY. You can’t just go out and buy a set up for this.
- Essential tools for Glass Splash are your set up but a small kiddie pool from Walmart is the cheapest best thing you can have. The small pool helps to catch most of the water that goes flying around. Also towels or rags to help wipe down the background and the area you are working in. Put tarps on the floor.
- One rule with glass splash is to make sure you don’t use anything you want to use again. Like Grandma’s crystal wine glasses. Whether just tossing glasses to catch the splash in mid-air or sliding it to catch the splash at the end things can and do go wrong on occasion. That’s why buying glasses from thrift shops and garage sales are perfect for this. You get variety and you don’t care if they break.
- No matter what the set up, you need to use a really good glue to glue the glasses on to your surface of choice. I have used shelves from the as is section in Ikea, glass from photo frames, mirrors and my favourite is plexiglass.
- I use GOOP glue which seems to be able to glue anything to anything and I let it set over night. I buy it at the hardware store. Find one that says extra strength.
- With a ramp set up you have to make sure you have something to stop it. Something solid.
- The key to doing this if you use a ramp is that your camera has to be on an angle. So set your camera on an angle so that the line of glasses is straight in your viewfinder.
- I now use a slider table which is easier. It is simply constructed and you start with everything level.
- I use a wipe able background that is translucent. I position two or three flashes behind the background and one on each side in the front. The background flashes are set at about 1/16 usually. The fronts are generally 1/32.
- The background flashes are brighter to help create a white background. The front one helps to freeze the water.
- A few things to keep in mind when shooting is something you all learned as children. If you place your glasses all in a row which is pleasing to the eye, the colours will mix. If you don’t want the lighter colours to get ugly don’t put them in the front glass. Green and Yellow don’t make blue. They make an ugly lime green which is not pleasing to the eye. The only time I put a really light colour in the front is if I am willing to dump the glasses between each shot.
- Use water coloured with food colouring and splash away.
Thanks Darlene for taking the time to come out and share your hard earned lessons, tips and tricks for getting those amazing liquid action shots. It was fun and inspirational.
We are certain to see over the coming months more examples of this kind of photographic art entered in the clubs monthly submissions nights. I’m looking forward to trying it out myself and seeing the work of other club members.
Photographs courtesy of Darlene Young, Copyright Darlene Young.