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Splash Art Kit Review

Posted by Caz on Thursday, 29th November 2012
Joe's Splash Art demo setup

Joe’s Splash Art demo setup

I have recently acquired a new piece of equipment for my High Speed Liquid Splashes. It’s the Splash Art II Kit from Joe Dyer at High Speed Photography UK. I found the gear through a group on Flickr and noticed that Joe lived just a few miles form me – so went over for a demo.

He was very happy to show me what the kit could do, I was very impressed and bought one on the spot! Here’s what was included:

Splash Art II Kit Complete

Splash Art II Kit Complete

Valve Head and Mariotte syphon

Valve Head and Mariotte syphon

Control Unit

Control Unit

The kit comprises:

  • Dedicated Splash Art Controller with DC power in, 12v out (to drive the valve) and camera remote out (with 5m extension cable).
  • 12v plug-top power supply
  • 1 large retort stand and clamps
  • Bespoke ball-head mount for valve assembly
  • 12V brass valve with integral Mariotte syphon bottle attachment

My first impression was that everything was well built, although I was a little disappointed that the controller unit had no labels! However, it’s pretty obvious from the cables provided that they will only fit into their own hole – the leftmost cable is the 12V DC power from the plug top transformer; the middle cable (with the white stripe) is the 12V output to the valve and the right hand cable is the 2.5″ stereo jack for controlling the camera shutter (with suitable adaptor cable for driving which ever camera you have).

The control knobs are as follows:

  • Top left: size of first drop (duration)
  • Top middle: length of delay between drops
  • Top right: size of second drop (duration)
  • Bottom left: delay before firing camera
  • Bottom right: actuation button and LED indicator
Two ball-head flash mounts

Two ball-head flash mounts

While I was there, I also bought a couple of Joe’s bespoke ball-head flash mounts which fit onto any retort stand with universal clamps. These look to be invaluable for holding flash guns in precise position, something which I have struggled with in the past. Being able to mount one above the other also provides interesting possibilities for twin-coloured background graduations.

Joe also kindly threw in a bottle of Karo corn syrup (which he uses as a thickener for his liquid splashes) and a large black paint roller tray to serve as the dropping reservoir. I’d previously had difficulty finding anything big enough to let me capture the reflections cleanly without a horizontal line in the background. This seemed like an excellent, cheap solution.

I set the kit up in my studio and thought I would have a go at photographing some crowns – the precise timing of these is not quite as critical as for collisions, and I wanted to get used to the gear before getting too complicated.

Splash Art setup for Crowns

Splash Art setup for Crowns

As you can see, my setup is now very similar to Joe’s, but with only two flashes behind the perspex, with coloured gels on each. There is also one flash to the left of the valve stand (camera right) with a gridded snoot, pointing at the splash zone.

Holding the actuation button for 3 seconds puts the control unit into single-drop mode required for crowns. Once I had set the focus, exposure and flash gels, I was up and running in a few minutes:

First Crown Tests - Golden Crown

First Crown Tests – Golden Crown

First Crown Tests - Low Level Crown

First Crown Tests – Low Level Crown

A Splash But No Crash

A Splash But No Crash

I was pleased with these initial results and wanted to try some collisions next. So late one evening (probably a mistake) I set the gear up to try and capture a splash collision in a wine glass. It’s a bit cliché, I know, but I haven’t done it yet!

No matter what I did, nothing went right. Yes, I was getting some splashes out of it, but none of the drops were colliding, no matter which knob on the controller I twiddled (and I twiddled them all!).

Rather deflated, eventually I gave up and went to bed. But as with many problems, if you leave them alone for a while and stop worrying about them, the solution will often come to you out of the blue.

A few days later, I was on the verge of emailing Joe and asking what I might be doing wrong, when I had a hunch. In fact, there were several factors in play which had prevented me getting collisions. Firstly, the drop height wasn’t sufficient – by the time the second drop had come out, the first had long ago rebounded into the glass. So a minimum of 20-30cm seemed to be needed. It was only about 15cm from the top of the liquid in the glass to the valve nozzle.

Secondly – camera shutter lag. It hadn’t really been a problem for the crowns (mainly due to the height issue as well, I suspect) but the camera was firing to too late catch any collision which might have occurred.

And thirdly – I was just using unthickened water, the surface tension is quite low and the rebounds tend to be more lively (but less interesting).

So I tried my next session dropping into a very short glass vase (at least 30cm below the valve nozzle), using Mirror Lock-Up mode (meaning the lag between the shutter button being pressed and the exposure starting is at an absolute minimum), and using a water with 20% corn syrup solution. Suddenly, it all came together – virtually every frame was a keeper!

Green Chaos #2

Green Chaos #2

Purple Splash #2

Purple Splash #2

The Necklace

The Necklace

A few days later I tried some shots dropping into the paint roller tray, and was delighted to get the reflections in as well as the splash:

Setup for splashes and reflections

Setup for splashes and reflections

Frilly Goblet

Frilly Goblet

You might ask why I’ve bought this kit rather than using my Camera Axe system? One reason is the valves which came in the Camera Axe Valve sensor are very cheap – two out of three have now stopped working (having left them in a drawer unused for a few months). And although the drop size, delay and camera/flash timing is much more precise with the Camera Axe, it is much more susceptible to changes in the fluid reservoir, since it is only a small open syringe. That means, just as you get the parameters right, everything is thrown out again when the fluid level changes. Which is why I needed to sort out a Mariotte syphon for it. Having seen Joe’s ready made syphon bottle and better quality valve, I thought I would give this system a go.

Conclusion

I would certainly recommend the Splash Art Kit to people who are just wanting to start out with water splashes, as you will get results pretty quickly. The Camera Axe required a lot more set up time each time it was used. I took the Splash Art Kit to a local club a few weeks ago and used it for a live demonstration of water splash photography, and it was very rugged, took very little set up time and produced consistent results.

I guess my ideal setup would be using the Camera Axe electronics to control Joe’s valve and syphon. That would also allow for the possibility of controlling two valves, which is currently not an option with the Splash Art Kit. I plan to build an interface box which will let me connect the two systems together – I just need some time to design and make it!

Painting In The Great Outdoors

Posted by Caz on Saturday, 24th November 2012

Light painting indoors or spinning physiograms are fun, and can be a great creative stop-gap when its raining or too dark for anything else. But it is a bit of a cop out… Some amazing effects can be seen when you venture outdoors and find the right location for your light painting activities.

It’s often tricky to balance the exposure for the ambient light of your scenery versus the light from your painting tools. That’s where the experimentation comes in.

After getting my LED Lenser V24 and Disney lightsabres early in the year, I had a go at light painting in various locations. This one was made with Alistair in Newcastle, with him waving the Lenser wand around while I minded the camera. It nearly made it for Day #1533:

Ribbon Visits The Quayside

Ribbon Visits The Quayside

I ventured out alone a few days later when I returned home. Hylands Park is pretty deserted after dark – but you can clearly see the flow of traffic on the A414 next to it. This one nearly made it for Day #1548:

Ribbon Visits Hylands Park

Ribbon Visits Hylands Park

I even had the foresight to drag the Lenser with me when I did the Paris overnight shoot in June – in the pouring rain! This one nearly made it for Day #1616:

Le ruban visite de la Tour Eiffel

Le ruban visite de la Tour Eiffel

Since then, I had not done any outdoor work until recently, when friends from GNPC suggested an after dark Light Painting workshop at a churchyard in the middle of nowhere. Several of us had fun using various tools. Here’s one image which were near misses for Day #1774:

The Lonely Spinner

The Lonely Spinner

When I was heading to the seaside the other day, I thought there may be a chance of an interesting location at dusk, so packed the light painting tools in the car. I got a few shots before the batteries in my LED Lenser were about to fade – this one nearly made it for Day #1789:

Ribbon Visits Bateman's Tower

Ribbon Visits Bateman’s Tower

As you can see, with the right location, you can get some pretty impressive results. In another post, I will tell you a little bit about my lightpainting tools. And I’ll be sure to write more when I set about using them to make Orbs and Domes – hopefully soon!

A Weekend On The Kent Coast

Posted by Caz on Sunday, 18th November 2012

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend on the North Kent coast, visiting a friend who’s just moved to Margate. Despite its shabby reputation, the town seems to be on the up once more, with various renovation schemes underway to revitalise the area.

Safe Harbour

Safe Harbour

The weather wasn’t too kind to us on Saturday, but nevertheless we enjoyed a great lunch out in Margate, followed by a trip to the tiny cinema in Broadstairs to watch the latest Bond movie in the evening.

Sunday dawned warm and sunny, so we went for a long constitutional walk along the beach from Broadstairs almost all the way to Ramsgate. The tide was out and we got to see plenty of interesting rocks and shells along the way.

Rusty Genny II

Rusty Genny II

We ate a splendid late lunch in a little café in Ramsgate and walked around the fine old harbour there – the afternoon light was fantastic and at times, it looked more like the south of France than dear old Blighty!

It's Not The South Of France

It’s Not The South Of France

You can see the full set of pictures I took over the weekend here:

Limit Yourself: Location

Posted by Caz on Saturday, 3rd November 2012

When I’m touring with my Photo A Day talk, the excuse many people give for not attempting the project is that they have the same old boring routine day in, day out. What can there possibly be to photograph?

Whilst I don’t commute to London regularly any more, I do have times when I’ve done stints of contracting. That has meant an awful lot of waiting around for trains at Ingatestone Station. I haven’t wasted my time – these are some my favourite pictures I’ve made there (mostly in the last 3 years):

Perforations & Raindrops

Perforations & Raindrops

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

Diffraction Distraction

Diffraction Distraction

And here’s some more:

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities if you just open your  eyes and see them…

Facing Down My Fears

Posted by Caz on Tuesday, 17th January 2012

This year my monthly shot won’t be a landscape image like it has been in previous years:

Scenic Location 2011 - Sandford Mill Lock

Scenic Location 2011 - Sandford Mill Lock

Spring Chicken

Spring Chicken

Instead, I am going to force myself into taking a self-portrait every month! Don’t all faint with surprise, you know how I hate them. So they are not going to be your average self-portraits but something which will fit into the Face Down Tuesday group. Yes, each one has to be taken on a Tuesday and I’ll be face down – showing my best side!

I’d been thinking about this for a few days and so decided today that I had to make my shot for January (I’ll be away for the last Tuesday in Jan) as I had a good idea for a location locally.

I woke up to a frosty start, donned my warmest hat – and trotted off to the local park… Where I shot some pleasant winter scenes such as Spring Chicken (left).

Thankfully there were only a few dog-walkers about, off in the far distance:

Tree Silhouette With Dogwalkers

Tree Silhouette With Dogwalkers

Nobody was in the playground so I snuck up to the top of the slide and scouted for my first shot. Originally, the idea was to take my wireless triggers so I could set the camera off remotely from my chosen location. I had packed camera, tripod, transmitter, receiver, fresh batteries for both (it was cold and they could have failed) and I thought all was fine.

I set up the gear, plugged it all in and then realised I’d left one vital cable at home – the one which takes the receiver signal into the camera shutter port – so no remote triggering! Rats! It would have to be self-timer after all. Several shots later, I eventually got this one:

No Head For Heights...

No Head For Heights...

However, I wasn’t too happy with it as I appear to be headless and that wasn’t what I wanted. Also, I nearly killed myself a few times trying to get up from that position – I was just holding on to the slide by my feet, and its sides were very slippery as the frost was melting in the sun – so trying to get up proved very difficult and somewhat un-ladylike!

My real location was the other slide in the park – about twice the length and the other side of the hill, in the shade. So that meant lots and lots of frost on it. No chance of sliding from the top (I would have just stuck). So I went for the following, shot as if I’d already come down:

Face Down - January

Face Down - January

Dief with my camera

Dief with my camera

Quite a lot of work and a little pain and suffering was involved, but it was fun to do and in the end it was very satisfying to get the picture I was after. Even so, I won’t be indulging in this silliness once a week like some of the other Face Down Tuesday crowd!

I do have an idea for February (to be taken while I’m away) but after that, we shall see! The only other thing to note is my lovely hat – Diefenheader – who seems to have a life of his very own. Mustn’t leave him unattended with my camera again, you never know where he’ll go with it!

I’m also very relieved that nobody was about whilst I was shooting it – I might get the reputation of being a mad-woman. Oh, OK, probably too late for that!