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Freezing Time Series – Suspending Water Droplets

As the old idiom states, “Time flies”. And to most of us, it cannot be said any better.

We often overlook the quiet beauty in the simplest things in life. But if we were to take our time to stop and look hard enough, we might just find all the splendor, majesty, and perhaps a little mystery that simply leaves one at awe. If diamonds are in the rough, then water is its equal.

A body of still, calm water may look bland. But when little droplets form and time is suspended, the captured images are nothing less than breathtaking.

Things You Need

  1. External Speedlite Flash

  2. Container – A square glass tank would be ideal

  3. Dripping source – a plastic bag, a stalk of flower or leaves, etc

  4. Tripod

  5. Pen

  6. Cardboards/Wallpaper – color depending on results you want to achieve

  7. Cloth

How It Is Done Depending on individuals, what you wish to achieve will determine how you want to shoot and prepare your session. It’s more of a self-experimenting session really.

For the most common of suspending-water-droplet shots however, you’ll need to place some cardboards around and below a water tank before filling it to the top with water. This is a way to transfer the color of the cardboards into the water and to create a colorful effect on the water droplets.

Next, place a bag with a small pin hole over the top of the glass tank and have a trial run to ensure water droplets are falling into the right position and in a controlled manner.

When you are done, place your camera on a tripod and carefully position it so that it is level/slightly higher than the water surface. This is to create an impression that the shot was taken on open water, and not in a “fish tank”.

Then, set your macro lens to manual focus. This will help your frame capture the droplets in close-up. A word of advise: always give the subject matter some extra frame space for unexpected situations.

Have the flash set up and position at one side of the subject. This will help minimize the appearance of shadow and reflection casted from the glass tank or the water itself. Many flashguns nowadays offer a multiple flash or strobe effect that will fire several flashes in one exposure. Use it!

When you are all set to go, place the tip of your pen at approximately 1 cm above water level, at the spot where the water droplets are estimated to land. Look through the viewfinder and you should see a red focal point flashing at the tip of your pen. Once the camera setting is confirmed, try not to turn off your camera or change the lens focal length anymore. Start shooting! Camera Settings (in a brief) 

Lens: Macro / Standard lens Shutter Speed: > 1/200 Aperture: > f/16 ISO: 100-200 Focus mode: Auto Focus/AI Servo

Additional Tips

  1. Use a real macro lens if you want to achieve better results.

  2. Set your camera to either “shutter priority” or manual mode and turn off your AF (automatic focus) lens to adjust your focus manually.

  3. Experiment on different shutter release timings.

  4. Try different camera- and lighting angles.

  5. Take lots and lots of shots.

  6. Keep your working space dry.

  7. Have sufficient lighting. If you don’t have a flash, try using nature’s supply.

  8. Stay away from shadows and reflections.

  9. Be patient.

When you have finally got the grip, try experimenting with patterned bowls or drinking glasses and water color or milk! Have fun trying.

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