Monday, February 19, 2007

Making a splash

Blue, with a splash of orangeA slight departure from the portraiture I've been doing recently, but still a chance to experiment with some off-camera lighting. These kinds of stop motion splash photographs always looked like a lot of fun and a recent dpchallenge theme of fruit & veg seemed like a good opportunity to make a mess.
The lighting is summarised in the diagram below. The main light was one flash, on the camera right in an umbrella, just slightly behind the glass. I've found when lighting glass that you really want the light coming through it from behind. Any front light appears as reflections and hotspots on the glass. Backlight just flatters glass a whole lot more. I moved the umbrella to close to 90 degrees to the camera, but just a bit further beyond, from the camera perspective. I've still got hotspots and light reflections in the water, but nothing much on the glass, which is what I wanted. The background is a white wall, with a blue gel on the strobe, hitting it at about 1/8th power. The flash is zoomed as tight as possible, then moved relative to the camera to give a natural vignette to the frame of the camera. I shot a few test frames to dial in the power that I wanted at the shutter speed I was going for. The shutter speed was set at 1/250s and the aperture was f7.1 to give some depth of field and keep the lens sharp. I'd started at f8 but moved to adjust the flash output. I bumped the ISO up to 400 to get reasonable exposures with the flash - just eyeballing it all on the histogram, prior to starting to drop the orange into the water. I picked blue for the background, to play off the complimentary colour relationships with the orange. I also pushed the ISO so that I could shoot the flashes at less than full power. The lower the flash power, the shorter the flash pulse and the more motion stopping happens. If the flash was on full power, I'd get a much brighter flash but also a longer pulse, which would mean the water wouldn't be as crisp. Because the main light was in an umbrella, pointing back towards the camera, flare was a concern. I put a gobo ( short for go between) between the camera and the flash to control this (black card attached to the tripod with a plamp). I added a reflector low and camera left to bounce some fill (you can see the effect on the lesser highlight on the left of the orange). That's pretty much it for the lighting. I shot a few frames to check the exposure on the histogram. The biggest challenge was to stop the main light washing out the background - this was fixed with some tweaking of the umbrella placement. The flashes were triggered with pocket wizards, camera on tripod, triggered with a remote cable, so I could drop the fruit and trigger the camera at the same time. I took about 10 shots, went and reviewed them on the computer then shot another 10 to get the final result. It was interesting to note the effect on the water by dropping the orange into different shaped vessels - this one is so straight up and down and the water ends up that way too. I tried some shots with a more open vase (like a martini glass shape). The water splash went much wider and not as high. I also tried a more closed, tulip shape glass, which gave a different splash shape again. Also the water level has a effect too - if the vase is really full or not. More water made a more dramatic splash obviously, but it also affects the direction and shape of the frozen splash. I had a large plate under the vase to catch/ recycle some of the water, which I poured back into a jug and into the vase for each take. The garage dried out a couple of days later. Post processing was pretty minimal. Some adjustment on the colours of the orange to make it more vibrant and I cleaned up some spots of water that weren't adding much to the composition, because they were out of focus or just in places I didn't like. I also overlaid a second version of the shot, adjusted to keep the highlights in check and dropped that in on top, with a mask made by selecting just the highlights (Ctrl+Alt+~). That mask got blurred a bit and then I dropped the opacity down, all just to give some slight texture to the potentially blown out highlights in the water. They are still blown out, but now with a bit more control.

6 comments:

Wes said...

Great shot and great lighting. Thanks for sharing your lighting scheme.

Wes said...

Another thought. Did you do any post processing of the image after shooting?

T-Mayer said...

This was very informative! I might have to give this a shot someday!

Elaine said...

Great lighting. I love that the water is in such good focus.

snowflakejen said...

Awesome shot!! Fantastic stop motion on the water!!

MikeW said...

wow