Aimlessly Pontificating on Photography

Posts tagged “flashgun

The making of . . .

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Water in Egypt

I decided to chose an easy image to write about in today’s making of post. It isn’t a brilliant image, certainly not one I would count as my best, but a great deal of effort went into its creation.

Lots of people have taken these types of images before and you can find lots of guides online, but I thought I would add my bit to the tower of babel. I got the idea having seen this Shooting Challenge on Gizmodo a little while back and always intended to try it for myself.

If you have read any of my similar posts before you will know I don’t really give a tutorial on how to do these images yourself, I just give a description of what I did to achieve my photo.

If you do want a proper tutorial, this is the place to go.

Anyway, I decided that I wanted something more than simply a drop of water, and one of the images on the Gizmodo challenge was of water apparently on an exercise book. There were a lot of entries but that one really caught my fancy.

I have this framed image on papyrus, bought in Egypt a few years ago. I placed a dish of water on it and “borrowed” one of my daughter’s medicine droppers. The camera was on a tripod and I used an off camera flash placed on the side of the dish opposite to the camera. Unfortunately, the framed picture was so large that I was unable to place the lens at a shallow angle to the dish, at least not initially.

Because of the awkwardness of the placement of the camera, and the fact that I had to hold the medicine dropper it was necessary for me to use a wired remote to trigger the camera shutter. It would have been very difficult for me to press the shutter release on the camera itself. Had I set things up differently I may have been able to eliminate the remote. As it is, I am glad I had one.

After a while of getting fairly blurred drops I decided to switch to manual exposure so that I could up the shutter speed and hopefully “stop” the motion of the drop a little more effectively. In order to use the flash with a higher shutter speed I needed to use high speed sync on the flash. This allows you to use a higher shutter speed than the native sync speed of the flash. Unfortunately, you cannot use the flash off camera if you want to use high speed sync.

I placed the flash back on the camera, but since the camera had to be fairly close (I decided to use a fairly wide lens, a 31mm) the flash would no longer point directly to the water. So I pointed the flash to a white paper placed opposite the dish, in order to bounce the flash to the water.

I did get a few good shots that way, but curiously enough the shot I chose to put to upload is one of the first ones I had taken. The reason is that the drops were fairly even and well focused (plus no motion blur) and the lighting was a lot more even than in later shots. I did prefer the way some of the other drops were placed, but it would have taken too much work to even up the lighting satisfactorily. If this tell you anything, it is that luck has a part to play with these types of photos also

I’ve put some of the failures below, and you can click on the image above to see the larger version on my photo site. In all I must have taken 50 shots to get that one above. Like most other things you have to keep trying until you are happy with your shot (or too tired to try anymore 🙂

Failure, fig. 1

Failure, fig. 2


The making of . . .

Apple Exposed

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This is one of the very early images in my project this year to take a photo every day for the year.

It was taken on 17th February this year while I was sojourning in Canada.

Only a month and a half into the project I was lost for inspiration with the scenery around me. It was the middle of winter in suburban Canada and I had no one to take me to any of the interesting places.

There was good and bad in that situation, I wasn’t guaranteed a good picture, but I was forced to step outside my comfort zone.

The setup for this shot should have been fairly simple, but to compose it I needed a tripod ideally, as this is a long exposure. Didn’t have one so my big heavy DSLR with a big heavy 105mm macro lens attached had to sit precariously on a plastic storage container with the lens cap under the lens to keep the camera level.

I had seen an article, I can’t now recall where, on a portrait photographer who took long exposure photographs of her subjects in total darkness, while selectively lighting them with a handheld flashgun triggered manually. Her photos were very interesting so this is what I wanted to try (except without a breathing subject to annoy).

I placed my camera to compose the image, set it in manual mode, stopped down to give me the maximum exposure length without going into bulb mode (shutter remains open until you determine it should be closed). It was evening, but not night, so there was still a degree of ambient light and lots of clutter in the background. Stopping down radically to f/20 also helped obscure the background clutter. So the settings were, manual exposure mode, f/20 aperture and 30 seconds shutter speed. Manual flash, handheld, triggered via the “Test” button on the flash.

The reason for the long exposure is to have maximum control of the lighting via the flashgun. Unfortunately it is a trial and error process. I can’t remember now but I must have taken at least a dozen shots, fine tuning the exposure.

If you look at the apple, you will see three highlight spots, I didn’t manage to aim the flash at the same spot each of the three times I triggered it. This matters on a highly reflective surface like the apple, but may not matter as much if you are taking a photo of subjects that are not shiny and reflective. I also didn’t particularly care for the straight line of light cast by the flash in the foreground. Another flash exposure aimed at the counter in the foreground with the flash set at low power would have probably eased that harsh line.

After importing the images into Adobe Lightroom, I had to boost the black levels a bit to hide the background completely and fiddle a little with the exposure and contrast, not much was done.

The technique is a very intriguing one, but requires a fair bit of patience. While my image might not be great, it is sufficient to see that the technique has some merit and is worth some additional experimentation.