Water Splash Photography Setup

Heads-up here! This is my first foray into photographing water droplets. I’m sharing my current setup, and sure it will change as I learn more and experiment. I am taking you along on my adventure showing you the kind of work I’ve been able to create with this setup. Once again I will share I am no expert with this type of photography. If you’ve got some ideas for me, I’d love to hear them!

This photography is not for the faint of heart. By the way, you CAN do this photography with a couple of Speedlights and in some ways that may be better for more control of the results. I like the variability with the gear which I’ve been working. OK, with the disclaimers out of the way lets look at a water droplet photo and then the layout of all the stuff.

water droplet photographPhotograph achieved with the equipment setup as seen below. Exposures are made at f14 with @ one second ISO 200.

water droplet photogrpahy setupHere’s my gear. I’ll ‘splain below.

I decided to get a little head start on this type of photography by getting some necessary tools. The Pluto Trigger and Pluto Valve can save you a LOT of time. The Trigger is connected to the camera and controls the show. It tells the water drops when to fall. What size they should be and when to trigger the flash. All of these durations are in milliseconds (MS).

Backgrounds are only limited by your imagination. The one showing above is with a colored Savage Paper background. There is a gelled flash with a snoot to vary the light and add interest. With this setup, I have also used a reflective background with a gel over it lit by a flash at various angles and directions. You can use cloth or photos or printed patterns or almost anything you like. As I learn I’m trying to be careful not to overwhelm the waterdrops but we’ll see as I play how that transitions.

I used the Lumix G7 to capture these photos. Lens used was the Vario 35-100mm f2.8 lens with a 10mm or 16mm Vello extension tube. You will need a camera that has a trigger port or can communicate with the Pluto Trigger.

Connected to the camera is a remote flash trigger that fires the flash Paul C Buff flashes from the camera. The Lumix 360L flashes are triggered by the light from the Buff’s because I have them set to Slave Mode. It is the flash that freezes the motion of the water. Adding gels to the flashes adds color and interest to the splashes. In my images, you often see some streaks of color in addition to the frozen droplet. This is because I am using multiple types of flash. The Buff units are not as fast as the Speedlights. And the Speedlights can be of different durations if you change the amount of light you ask them to produce. The lower the power, the shorter the duration of light. Bogen Cine gels Vivid color are juicy. Roscoe gels work well too. You can get gel packs that are just the right size for fitting on your Speedlight. Here’s one from Roscoe holder for the gels.

speedlight with gelLumix Speedlight with gel taped in place. Once you see how the gels perform you can also buy larger sheets and cut them to size for larger flashes.

I used a black bowl of water for the reflection. Black allows the color of the background to shine through. Fill the bowl as high as possible, so the edge of it doesn’t show. Science says you can fill a vessel higher than it top because of surface tension. Well, let’s not get into that too far, but as a side note, know that you can put 32 dimes in a shot glass before it overflows after you have filled it with water. Make sure you have a drip tray underneath the bowl or tray to catch any spills as you work.

If you don’t have enough lights, or just want to add another variable, note that you can add a mirror to the set to reflect light back from another direction.

The Manfrotto Magic Arm is extremely helpful in positioning the valve in place over the water. The Manfrotto Super Clamp holds the valve. When you are setting up the position of the water drops, watch where the water drop falls and put something in place to use to set your focus. Remove before shooting.

Working with water droplet photography is like photographing fireworks! You are never quite sure what you are going to get. You get to control the variables but there is never a guarantee and always fun surprises. (well sometimes not so fun but always a learning experience)

If you have any questions, let me know.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob