How To Take… Water Splashes

I’ve often seen other people’s photos of water splashing into a surface and thought I should have a go at it myself. With the My Year In Pictures project, I’ve kept a list of subjects I should try, to give some inspiration on days when it’s not nice outdoors or I just can’t think what to take.

Today, I had a go at some macro shots of water splashes. It’s harder than it looks! You need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action, and a small aperture to give you maximum depth of field. Both of which mean you will have to use a high ISO setting and/or flood the image with light.

Some photographers use a high-speed stroboscopic flash to do the job for them – it recharges in a fraction of a second and allows several shots to be taken in one burst. But I don’t have one, so I dug out an old 1000W video lamp from the back of a cupboard and tried that:

[Setup in my kitchen – bowl of water on stripey wrapping paper; camera turned vertically on tripod on left; the 1000W video light on second tripod to the right]

[Closer view of the camera and bowl with water bottle cap just seen at the top]

I was using my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, fitted with a 12mm extension tube which allowed much closer focussing and greater magnification.

After much trial and error with the placement of the bowl, focus, position of the light and camera settings, I came up with the following as a reasonable set-up:

  • ISO speed: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250th
  • Aperture: f/6.3

I had tried using 1/1000th and f/4.0 but they weren’t as sharp as I’d have liked – so I moved the light closer to the subject and got a better exposure.

The trick then is to drop a broken stream of water from the nozzle of a drinking water bottle with a sports cap. I had pre-focussed on a fork poked into the surface of the water (to get a proper focus point, otherwise you are focussed on the wrapping paper below which is no good for the splashes).

Then you have to try and aim the water drops into the same place as the fork was, whilst holding down the shutter button – I had the camera on high-speed motor drive. Take tens of shots and find the best half dozen!

[Splash! The water surface breaks up nicely when the first drops hit]

[Gravity Well – I like the way the falling stream makes a hole in the surface]

[Bubble Group – taking shots after the disturbances have died down can be equally rewarding]

The last picture here and my Pic of the Day for Day #29 show that you don’t always have to photograph the turbulence to get some good pictures – handy if you don’t have high speed motor drive.

I’ll certainly be having another go at this sort of picture, perhaps with some different backgrounds and lighting. Why not give it a shot too?

3 thoughts on “How To Take… Water Splashes”

  1. Thank you for your wonderful ideas and your tips on Project 365. I have just started this on the 1st of December and am having fun. I will be getting a Nikon D5000 for Christmas. As I am new to photography I am very excited and look everywhere to get help. Thanks for being there.

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