Sometimes, you have to MAKE it.
Boredom. We have all been there in one facet or another in our lives. Like musicians courting the muse, photographers must follow this same archaic path as well. Being that I have been on both sides of this creative fence I can safely say there is no difference between the two when it comes to creating something new and fresh. My 8th grade music teacher told me something that I will never forget. He said to me, “We hear all the time, it is when we listen that is important”. I have carried this with me and applied it to everything in my life ever since. The same applies to photography. We see all the time, but it is when we look that is important. For the creative photographer can get in a rut with this, just as a musician can. To get out of the rut we must simply continue to work. The key is to force yourself, good or bad, to work in other genres you may not be comfortable in. If you are a landscape photographer, try some portraiture, or macro photography. This will not only expand your repertoire, but will exercise your creative eye and mind in new ways. It will give you new vision and freshen the way you “look” at the world around you.
Recently, I found myself in this very spot, as I often do. The upstate New York grey season, otherwise known as “Not Summer” can have quite an effect on you. So, I started scouring the internet for new ideas and directions to move my photography. A few sites that I recommend for this is 500px.com, Flickr.com and of course Google+. I will randomly surf for an hour or so and try to find something that catches my eye. This time is was the beautiful water drop photography of Corrie White. You can see her gallery at the link posted at the end of the article. There are a lot of water drop specialists out there, but for me, Corrie is tops. Not just because her images are amazing, but because she is a humble artist and I really appreciate that! Her work really inspired me to set up some lights, a pan of water, some food coloring and give it a shot. Now she uses a digital rig, but she did start out the same way that I am. I cannot afford a digital timer, but I also really just like the experimentation of trying to time it by hand for now. Here is the first water drop photo that I created.
This shot was created with the simple rig which consisted printer ink syringe, taped to an old tripod, over a Pyrex baking dish filled with colored water. I would test a few drops, use a remote release with the camera, squeeze the syringe, click the release, and hope for the best. Here is a simple diagram of the original set-up.
I used a 70-200mm macro lens and zoomed all the way in on the water as to crop out the dish and background. It took about 45 shot to get the first one. Once I had practiced a few sessions it got easier. It is still a challenge capturing the exact moment. To me, that is where the fun lies. You just never know what you are going to get. Once you get your timing down better, then you can start experimenting with different strobe power, colored backdrops, using milk instead of water, or a combination of ingredients. Here are some more shots from the initial set-up.
It would be some time before I would do anymore water drop shots, but this exercise did help me focus on smaller details in my landscapes as well as razor sharp focus and lighting. On my return to do more water drop shots I decided that a better drip rig was needed so off to the hardware store I went. For a few bucks I bought some brass fittings and some plastic tubing and this greatly stabilized my drops and helped me focus more on my timing. Another trick that helped with focus was to place a nail in the water where the drop hits. Then focus the camera on the nail. Remove the nail and commence shooting. Here are some shots of that set up.
In this last shot you can see that my focus is dead on.
With everything set up properly and my focus dead on, it’s time to let the water fly. Sometimes I drop just a single drop and others I try to successively drop several in sequence to get a reaction. Here I am using a mixture of water, skim milk and pink, green, and blue food coloring. I found a fluorescent food coloring at the grocery store that really makes the colors pop.
By adding more milk to the mixture I found that the colors started to pop even more.
Add to that some colored gels in front of my strobes and the results start to get interesting.
Timing of course is everything with these shots. I have found that trying to time it by watching the drop hit the water is not always best. Sometimes, later is better with these shots. The experimentation is where the learning comes in and is different for everyone. As my aim and focus has improved I was able to capture my first partial umbrella. This phenomenon happens when a drops rebound splash collides just right with an incoming second drop. With a timer, this is pretty easy to do, by hand, not so much.
The “Umbrella” type photos are the shots that Corrie White has made famous. Here work as far as I am concerned is un-paralleled. Here are a couple of shots from my last shoot.
As with anything of course it is natural to further the experimentation. This next set involves a 10 gallon fish tank with a black back-drop. I will let you look at the shots and then explain what you are seeing.
So by now you have to be asking, “What the heck”? The fish tank was cleaned and filled with water. I set a strobe up on each side of the tank pointing directly in. I then used a mixture of food coloring, dish detergent, and water in a large printer ink syringe. I fired off the syringe as fast as I could while triggering the camera remote with my free hand. The image is then flipped in Lightroom creating something uniquely different and creative. Here is another set using a different technique. I refer to this series as “inner space” as they tend to look like nebula and stars.
This last set was inspired by midsummer’s day of boredom. I was just driving around town and stopped at a local city park. No one ever photographs this park and it’s fountain due to sour taste that it’s construction has left in many a residents mouth. So, instead of photographing the fountain in it’s entirety I decided to just focus on….you guessed it, the water. The fountain cost the community a rumored 1 million dollars and was built where many businesses used to stand after the 1972 Agnus Flood. Instead of commerce, the city decided that a park was much better than any business could ever be for the downtown area. Needless to say, this place is practically a ghost town now. But, we have this lovely granite fountain so why not photograph it? The granite edges are very sharp and the water flowing over these edges streams like glass. That is, until the wind hits it and then it bubbles and flares like ribbon candy. This caught my eye so I slapped on the 70-200mm Sigma 2.8 APO and went to work.
Post processing on these consisted of a simple 2-color filter and that was it. I have no names for these, I just thought they were very organic and neat to look at. They would work well in large format in a lobby or office. The greatest thing about shots like this is that they really can be colored any way you wish, to match any decor.
This final set is a culmination of all of my work from the previous water abstract shoots. I took all of the things that I had learned from these shoots and applied it to a landscape shoot. This summer, as part of my going west 2012 series I made stops in several places along the drive out to Utah. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore at the foot of Lake Michigan, just east of Chicago would be one of those stops. Lake Michigan like the other great lakes looks like an ocean from the shore. The wave action on a fairly calm day is lighter than the ocean and this would be such a day. I had some ideas lined up for the shoot and you can find those in another series I am releasing soon. But when the shoot ideas ran out, I decided to fall back on my water abstract knowledge from the previous year. It turned out to be not only fun, but rewarding as well. After I had captured all of the wide-angle, sweeping landscapes I could muster, I put on the macro lens and started focusing on the waves and their motion.
No strobe use here, but still angling myself to the useful muted sunlight from the clouds to get the results I wanted.
And there you have it. An otherwise missed opportunity if not for feeding the muse out of boredom. Always push yourself in to un-chartered territory, as it will always expand your knowledge and further fine tune your skill set. I hope you find some inspiration in this post to go out and try something different, I am sure you will greatly benefit from it.
Corrie White on 500px: http://500px.com/CorrieWhite
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 at 8:42 pm
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Posted in: Inspiration