Capturing a Flower in a Water Drop Splash

by Steven Smith | Sep 6, 2021 | 0 comments

A water drop splash on a rainy day? Sure. This is a perfect project for a rainy day. Come with me, and we will step inside and have some tabletop fun.

1. Fill a clear 9” x 13” pan to the brim with water.

2. Place an overflow pan beneath the glass pan to contain water overflow.

3. Make a support from which to suspend a water container with a pinhole in the bottom. It should be about 10” above your glass pan. Use your imagination to accomplish this.

4. Fasten a wire in a wooden block, which can be bent to support the suspended flower above your “lake.” The bottom petals of the flower should be barely skimming the water’s surface, and placed about four inches behind the water drop splash. The splash itself should be hitting the water about five inches back from the front edge of the pan.

5. I used a dark blue foam matboard for my background. The color of the matboard is important, because it will be picked up in the swirling water in front of the splash and in the splash itself. For the most beautiful rendering, consider complementary colors. If your flower is predominantly yellow or orange, its complementary color is blue or violet-blue…so a dark blue matboard will produce beautiful results.

6. I think the most pleasing results come from a flower that has long petals and is of a lighter hue with a center that is not too dark. To me, pastel colors look better than bright red or orange. A flower about two inches in diameter works best. Leave a fairly long stem on your flower, which will be taped to the wire support. You will need to drape the end of the stem into a hidden container of water or secure a wet paper towel to it to keep the flower from wilting.

Setup for photographing flowers in water droplets

A macro lens is best for close-ups. I use a 100 mm, but use what you have. The camera on your tripod should be level and set at a low angle looking across the water, making the horizon line as low as possible while still recording a little bit of water in front of the splash. Adjust the height of the camera until the composition looks good. Get close to the splash, while at the same time leaving yourself some wiggle room for cropping. In your picture, the splash should be the main subject, NOT the flower behind.

Although I have captured water drop splashes with fewer flashes, I think a four-flash system illuminates best (two directed toward the splash angled in from the front left and right, and two on the backdrop). But if all you have is a single on-camera flash, just use that. You will still be able to achieve beautiful results!

The camera settings I used to capture the chrysanthemum in my water drop splash pictures were manual setting at f/13, ISO 250, shutter speed 1/100. The two flashes aimed at the splash were set to 1/16 power, and the two on the backdrop to 1/32 power. You may need to use other settings with your system. If you cannot adjust your flash and find that it is too bright, just diffuse it by taping a piece or two of wax paper over it.

When you have everything set up, it is time to achieve focus. Set your lens to manual focus, and use a bright flashlight to illuminate the splash column from the falling drops while turning your lens focus ring to focus. The more water you place into your water drop container, the faster and closer together the drops will flow, even to the point of being too fast. To set your focus, you want the flow to be very fast. It is somewhat of a guessing game, and it may take a few tries to get the droplets sharp.

If the flower appears too small in the splash, move the flower a little closer to the splash.

Before I begin shooting, I turn off unnecessary lights so they do not add unwanted hot spots. Now let’s have some fun! It’s time to shoot.

I like the water flowing fast, but not too fast. The key is achieving a rhythm which will allow you to fairly consistently press the shutter button just as a water drop hits the water’s surface, allowing you to capture the water column as it is rising. Knowing exactly the right time to press the shutter button comes with practice as you adjust to your reaction time in relation to the impact point of the water drop. Plan on taking a couple hundred shots, knowing you will ultimately delete most of them.

To make the background more beautiful, at the end of the session I turn the focus ring until the background flower is nicely blurred, and do a final shot. For this shot, I also remove the water drop container. Why? Because while shooting at f/13 is great for capturing the flower in focus in your splash, the background flower is too sharp. The soft-focus flower will make a more attractive background. This new shot renders the background flower much more blurred, and the bokeh much more beautiful. Then, in post processing, I layer my favorite water drop shots onto this soft background.

Because we are using flashes, some hot spots will appear in the splash and water drops. To a certain extent, they add a little depth and interest to the splash, but I remove the more intense and distracting ones in post with a clone stamp.

If you appreciate photographic art, be sure to give this lesson a try. Water artistry is beautiful, and a fun way to achieve it is by capturing a flower in a water drop splash.

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