I’ve always liked abstract, graphic images. Several years ago I did some studio studies of bent and folded paper. While they were OK, the lights I had available to me at the time we simply too large to accomplish the vision I had for the images. The other problem I faced back then was the smallest lights I had were Nikon macro flash units. With any flash units in the studio, you have to position them and select the power levels based on your best guess. Then you fire the flashes and see what you got. That allows you to make any corrections and take another shot. This process can take quite a while to get the image dialed in where you want it.

Fast forward more than ten years to now and I have very small LED continuous lights made by LumiCube. These allow the position of the power level to be adjusted in real time. You can see what you are going to get without having to go through a lot of rounds of adjustments. This is a huge advantage in the studio. With these lights in hand, I decided to have another go at paper studies. This time I was able to get the images I had envisioned years ago.

I still have some additional ideas for arrangements of paper and lights that I will try in the future but for now I am very happy with the images I got.

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As a kid when I first saw some photographs taken by Harold “Doc” Edgerton and stop motion shots by other photographers I was blown away. I first did some similar photography using a high-powered strobe when I was shooting an article on a world record setting model airplane developed by my older brother and me. Those shots were taken on film and although I got the images we needed the success rate as low and we used up a lot of film. Because of that I never did any more stop motion shots with film cameras.

Fast forward thirty years to 2010 and I now had a decent DSLR. Since the “film” was now free I decided to try some stop motion water drop shots similar to what Doc Edgerton had done. There are two big problems I had to deal with: getting enough light so the shutter speed would be high enough to stop the drops in motion and timing the shutter release to capture the drop at a good location. Edgerton and others who are really serious about this kind of photography use high powered flash to solve the first problem and some kind of electronic detector/trigger to solve the second. At the time, in 2010, there were a few photographers who had developed kits specifically to trigger the flash and shutter on digital cameras for water drop shots. There are actually several enthusiast groups who are really serious about water drop art. I didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars on the gear so I decided to use the brightest continuous lights I had and try to time the shutter. Unfortunately, my lights weren’t bright enough to get shots that weren’t grainy. Timing the shutter worked but the success rate was really low. I did manage to get a few shots that I kept however.

Fast forward another ten years to now and I have recently purchased some nice LED lights for studio use. I decided to give the water dop shots another try with those new lights. I was still using eyeball timing to decide when to trip the shutter so the success rate is still low. However, the amount of light (and a newer, better Nikon D850 DSLR) was now sufficient to get some really nice shots.

 I have always liked subjects that have something of an unpredictable nature to them and water drop shots certainly qualify on that count. Perhaps some day I will spend a couple hundred dollars and buy a water drop kit to do some really spectacular water drop art but for now I am happy with the shots I got.

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