Splash !

So it's late Sunday Afternoon, and having spent the last few hours helping my daughter build a Saturn 5 Rocket and competing in Mathletics (well a model of the rocket, and online arithmetics), I thought I'd scratch the itch that i've been having to try some Splash Photography. Having researched various YouTube Video's including top vlogger, Gavin Hoey, talking on the subject, I decided I had everything i needed.

- Standard DSLR with mid range range lens (50mm)

- 2 Speedlights with Stands.

- 2 Wireless Triggers and 1 transmitter (Yongnuo 622C)

- Camera Tripod

- Water Proof Surface

- Water Receptacle - a tall flute glass here, but anything transparent is ok.

- Item to drop - Orange Slice in my experiment

- Water based paint (for colouring the water).

- Towels and wipes - this is gonna get wet !!

First off. You'll need a reasonable amount of surface space as there will be plenty of water flying around. I recommend you place the white backdrop as far back as possible (further than I had it below), or you'll be wiping it regularly. You don't want streaks of running water mucking up your background. As you can see, I negotiated with the wife to use her kitchen Island for this project.

So with the location sorted. Mark the spot where you glass will be. This is important as you will be using manual focus, and you will be moving the glass around for refills etc. knowing the exact spot will ensure you don't waste time refocusssing each time.

The backdrop I'm using is a leftover kitchen cabinet door and is place behind the glass. The bigger the better as it will mean you have more of clean space behind, and potentially less time spent in post-processing. I also added an additional white card to the left to mask the legs of the flash stand.

Speedlight 1 (Canon 430EX II in my case) is mounted on a table mounted stand, and directed vertically downward 1ft above the glass. The aim to get some lovely bright specs in the splashes from the top. The is mounted on one of the Yongnuo Receivers 622C and

Speedight 2 (Yongnuo 685) is on a floor mounted tripod on the 45' C to the right of the camera and level with the glass.

If you are planning to use a larger water receptacle and/or heavier drop item, then you may want to put a plastic bag around your flashes to prevent water splashing onto them.

Camera : Canon 6D with 50mm 1.8 (the 'nifty fifty'). Positioned about 2ft in front of the glass. Any good lens will work, just be aware that a shorter focal length, will mean you are closer to the action, and the higher likelihood of your camera/lens getting splashed.

The 2 speedlights are setup on seperate groups (A and B) so I can adjust the power independently, and both set to manual mode. With a bit of experimenting I settle on 1/64 for the top-light, and 1/32 for the side light.

Once everything is place, next step is to get the Camera settings sorted.

First thing to understand is that we are going to be using the Flash duration to Freeze the action. The shutter speed will not be relevent - it just needs to be long enough to the cover the flash duration.

So start with ISO100, f10 and 1/160s.

The low ISO will ensure maximum image quality,

The fstop is mid range - this will give you a wide depth of field, to keep all the image in focus from the nearest droplets to the furthest.

The Shutter speed is long enough to cover the duration of the speedlight flash. Most speedlights will flash for up to ~1/200 of a second when set to maximum. A lower power setting will be much shorter - down to 1/20,000 at it's lowest. The 1/160s will be fine for our lower power settings and ensure longer battery life.

Below is a table for the Canon 430EX II, listing duration of flash per Output Level Settings. The data is sourced from Speedlights.net You can see with our Canon set to 1/64, it will have the shortest duration, which a total exposure time of 1/6500 of a second. this should easily freeze any movement. Like I said, the shutter setting on the DSLR is largely irrelevent.

Canon 430EX II Yongnuo 685

Output Level Duration Duration

1/1 1/350 1/325

1/2 1/1630 1/935

1/4 1/3000 1/2150

1/8 1/4300 1/3500

1/16 1/5250 1/4900

1/32 1/5600 <1/18000

1/64 1/6500 1/20000 (spec)

No you're also set up, first make sure you've got your focus right. Put the lens to Manual focus mode, and grab your focus.

And we're off ......this is a numbers games.. the more shot's you take the more chance of getting the timing just right. I had a little helper - my daughter was only too happy to play 'drop the orange into the glass' while I fired the shots. This could done solo if you have a remote camera trigger. Believe it or not the below was my first shot... I took a dozen others, but this one remained the pick.

So on the left we have the towel, on the right we have a black band. The dark areas are the unexposed background of the kitchen. Remember that with our exposure settings, the whole room will remain in darkness. Only the areas within the flash range will be visible.

The stuff on left and right will quickly disappear in Photoshop using a combination of the context aware stretch to extend the white areas either side of the glass, and then cropping. Also with some tweaks of the contrast, Saturation. I've also increased clarity and put it through RAW pre-sharpening. Below screenshot showing shapening.


Final Image based off the above.

For more photographic variation, there a limitless opportunity to experiment. Different shape receptacles, different dropping objects. One other thing to try is colouring the water-= - Drop in a little water-color paint into the water.. and retry...I tried Blue as the standard Complementary colour for Orange (see Basic Colour Theory).

There's plenty to improve on these shots. Firstly the initial shot's need brighter background, so I would adjust the flash power to throw more light on the bakdrop. Also, I'd have a go with a larger receptacle and longer drop heights.

I think for a first attempt, this is pretty good. More experiments to come.

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