This is my first series of experiences with water drops. I wanted to have a minimalistic image with very simple graphics.
I have seen numerous images with water drops on flickr, and most of them were of drops reaching a water surface, and the main subject was the impact of the drop on the surface.
I wanted to have the drop itself as the main subject.
Before I was able to make this shot, I went through a first unsuccessful session, where I shot a couple hundred shots without ever getting close to the result I wanted. It almost discouraged me from working on that theme.
Here is one of the best (or "less bad") shots I got during that first session:
There were several problems with this shot: The background was not dark enough (I wanted it to be pure black but it received some light from the flash and from ambient light), which did not allow the droplet to stand out. Also, the focus was not sharp enough on the drop, and the light was too strong.
This is the setup I used for this first session:
The camera was set on a tripod and an off-camera flash was set on one side of the subject. I set a black background and a red plastic box opposite to the flash in order to give some reddish reflections on the drops. I also had a white box on the right to provide a secondary reflection. The drops were sent through an eyedropper which I handheld, and I had to sync my movements between sending the drops and triggering the camera.
After this first session, I tried to sit down and understand what had happened, and how to solve it. Once I understood that, I decided to make the corrections and go for a new session.
Here is the new setup for the shot.
You can see on the right side of the table the flash with the home made soft-box, and on the left side the red plastic box. You can also see in the middle of the table the "structure" with the piece of cotton. Finally, the black background is simply my camera bag that was seated on the backrest of the sofa and covered with a black T-shirt.
To prepare the settings, I placed a piece of wire (could be any object) at the location where the drops would fall. I used the autofocus on the camera to focus on that wire, and then switched to manual mode.
The shutter speed was set to 1/200, which is the flash sync speed, and aperture was kept quite small to make sure the background remains dark.
The flash was triggered directly from the camera, using Canon ST-E2 remote transmitter, and with E-TTL setting.
In fact, this did not give me the final picture that is showcased above. It gave me the below image:
This is already much better than that of the first session.
However, there was too much emptiness in the frame, and I wanted to have several drops aligned in the picture. I was not able to get the drops to fall at a high enough pace for that.
So I used one last trick: I disconnected the flash from the camera, set the shutter speed to 4 seconds (and closed the aperture to compensate) and fired the flash manually several times during the 4 seconds of the shot. Several shots later I had what I wanted.
In fact, during the 4 seconds, each flash burst caught a specific droplet at a specific place. And all these captures added up in the final picture.
Now my question is: are any two of the drops in the image actually the same drop taken at two different flash bursts? To be honest, I don’t have an answer, but it is a possibility.