- March 10, 2015 at 11:43 pm #184896
I have been obsessed with water drops for more than 30 years, since I saw a copy of “A Study of Splashes” by A.M.Worthington.
What follows is a VERY short tutorial – as with everything photography related there is so much to do and learn, and i simply cannot cover it all off here.
In 1981 I built my first trigger designed to photograph milk drops and water drops. It was good for capturing images of Worthington Jets. A Worthington Jet is formed when a drop of water hits a body of water forming a crater. If the impact has sufficient force a “Worthington jet” protrudes from the center of the crater. If the impact energy is high enough, the jet rises to the point where it pinches off, sending one or more droplets upward out of the surface.
Milk Drop (Worthington Jet) circa 1981.
I have learned a lot since then, and have built several more triggers, and used a number of methods to capture liquid sculptures.
The basics needed to capture stunning water drops are:
• Camera with manual exposure and manual focus
• External flash (speedlight, not studio light)
• A way to create water drops
o This can be anything from a baby bottle with a modified teat, a melting block of ice, a zip lock bag with a hole in one corner, an eyedropper, a purpose bought mariotte siphon through to an electronic device specifically designed for high speed photography.
I am currently on my third generation electronic trigger. The current one uses electronics and a 12v solenoid to release two drops at set (variable) intervals, and triggers the camera shutter via a variable delay.
Whichever method you use, patience and persistence are a necessity!
To assist in setting the focal point I use a bolt bought from the local hardware store. I place the bolt dead centre into the catch receptacle, and move it around until my drops are falling onto the bolt as shown below:
I then focus on the threads on the front of the bolt, set my ISO to 50 or 100, and the aperture to f11 or f14, shutter to 1/200 sec. That gives sufficient depth of field to ensure a usable image. I set my flash output to 1/128 power if I am using two flashes, or 1/256 if using just one. With these settings I can shoot in a well lit room without ambient light causing issues in the images. Note: when using multiple flashes they must be set to the same power output, or you will get a type of blurring in the images.
• 1: Mariotte Syphon on 12v solenoid
• 2: Stand
• 3: Backdrop (I use an acrylic A4 document holder, this allows me to change backdrops by simply changing the paper in the holder)
• 4: Flash units & wireless triggers. I mount mine on two small tripods)
• 5: Drop receptacle
• 6: Camera mounted on tripod
• 7: Ballast (honestly!)
• 8: Drop controller
Once you have your equipment setup, and the drip rate right all that remains is to take lots and lots of images. Not all of them will result in keepers – this is true whether you are controlling the camera manually, or using an automated system. Keep going – spectacular images will be the reward.
Milk is good for starting out with drops. It has a higher viscosity than water, making it easier to catch a well-formed umbrella splash. When photographing milk drops you need to aim your flash units directly at the drops.
Milk into coffee
Water is harder to work with because it has a lower viscosity and flows very quickly. Water is at it’s most dense at 4 degrees celcius, so I use ice cubes in the Mariotte Siphon, and chilled water in the drop receptacle. When photographing water-drops you do not light the water directly, but light the background, and reflected light will light the spash. I prefer water personally, though I do shoot both.
Additives can be used to change the way your chosen liquid behaves. As an example I usually use a drop or two of dishwasher rinse-aid in the catch receptacle. This reduces the surface tension and allows me to get the long Worthington jets that I like, as below:
I also use “Dettol Power & Pure” kitchen cleaner in the drop tank, along with a teaspoon of glycerine. This gives the water a little more elasticity and creates the parasol type splashes as in this image:
A lot of people use Guar Gum or Xanthan gum to thicken the drops. This slows down the reaction, and produces interesting shapes. I have not tried that as yet, but stay tuned.
Other additives people have used include: Sugar syrup, Fabric Softener, Corn Syrup, various liquid soaps and cleaning products. Experiment and have fun.
For truly spectacular water drop images have a look at Corrie White’s “Fun with Water” album on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/10756887@N07/sets/72157613369221788/
Corrie is the undisputed queen of water drops, and has a brilliant e-book available on the subject. Well worth a read if this is something you wish to get into.
- March 11, 2015 at 12:45 am #184900
- March 11, 2015 at 6:06 am #184928
- March 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm #184952
- March 11, 2015 at 4:50 pm #184959
- March 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm #184966
TY I am doing a 52Wk challenge & found this very inspiring & something I will have to try
- March 12, 2015 at 4:19 am #184989
- March 13, 2015 at 3:53 am #185083
- March 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm #185179
- March 13, 2015 at 7:49 pm #185189
Rob Wood (Admin)Keymaster
- March 14, 2015 at 12:32 am #185239
Really cant add much…..really interesting and informative….had a go a few years um ago and produced a Worthington!…! 🙂 oh and two kids!!! 🙂
- March 15, 2015 at 11:54 am #185381
Great looking tutorial, thanks for sharing!
- March 16, 2015 at 9:36 pm #185602
Hi David…..great tutorial,really interesting insight into! 🙂
I had a go a few years ago and only just realised…through your tutorial…that I produced a ‘Worthington Jet’
- March 17, 2015 at 5:54 pm #185696
- March 18, 2015 at 6:02 am #185749
- June 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm #196501
Thanks David. I’m bookmarking this so I can always find it.
- September 29, 2015 at 9:19 pm #207474
Thanks very much David, a great tutorial which demystifies the whole subject. Cheers.
- September 30, 2015 at 4:16 am #207489
- September 30, 2015 at 8:52 am #207493
Wow! What a great tutorial. I had no idea there was so much involved in photographing drops. And the images are totally awesome.
- September 30, 2015 at 8:54 am #207494
WOW! I just went and looked at Corrie’s Flickr page. She’s unbelievable. Amazing cool shots! Thanks for turning me onto her.
- September 30, 2015 at 1:24 pm #207517
As stated above, great tutorial and shots. Thanks
- October 1, 2015 at 3:43 am #207575
- January 16, 2018 at 8:04 pm #324155
Thank you David for your comprehensive coverage of this topic. I knew there’d be a little bit involved in the process but such detailed knowledge given freely is what makes you and LS so special. Thanks again.
- June 12, 2019 at 10:25 am #410572
Just to add my own thanks as well , much appreciated David , Easy to follow with all the crucial info , stunning works you added showing the end results , WOWZERS.
I especially liked the FIRST image Milk Drop (Worthington Jet) circa 1981. ( just personal taste ) I LOVE the mood in that image the red / off white and black all make for a sweet minimalist Vibe.
Not forgetting Corrie’s Flickr page , like your own and has been said all mind blowing stuff.
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