The impact of a water droplet falling mid-air into a pool of water doesn’t seem that cool with the blink of an eye. However, the camera is able to capture the most fascinating effects in slow motion. Photographer Jay Stockhaus was willing to show how he captures these immaculately formed water shapes–turns out getting the ‘right’ shot is not as easy as you’d think! Check out how Jay creates and captures these beautiful liquid sculptures.
Question: How would you describe the setup of the photo scene?
Jay: The setup is constructed from ½ inch PVC pipe and fittings. Almost everything in the setup can be bought at the hardware store. The only things I had to order were the needle valve and the solenoid valve. I got both of those items off of eBay. I use the solenoid valve to stop the flow of water between photos so that the water surface is smooth. For the catch container, I use a small black bowl. I have found that the black bowl gives better reflections. I also have a large drip pan below the setup to catch the overflow. To focus, I set a piece of PVC pipe where the water drops fall and manually focus on the lettering on the pipe.
Q: How do you achieve the color in each photo?
Jay: For the color in each photo, I either use a colored backdrop and light it with 2 speedlites or I use a white backdrop and place colored gels on the speedlites. I also have a white surface above the water that I light with a speedlite with a colored gel. For the colored backdrops, I either buy them at the craft store or make my own in Photoshop and print them.
Q: What photographic equipment was used? Are there any particular settings needed to achieve these effects?
Jay: I have 3 inexpensive speedlites and wireless triggers that I bought off of ebay. I use a 18-200mm lens with a 12mm extension tube, and of course I use a tripod and cable release. The camera settings I use are: ISO 320 with a shutter speed of 1/125 and an aperture of around f/14. The settings for the speedlites are 1/64 power. It is the speedlites that freeze the water drops.
Q: What inspired you to create this type of photography? Any certain photographers that inspired you?
Jay: I remember seeing some photos in a photography magazine in the 1980s and thought that it would be cool to try. I never got around to it back then. Then I was watching a show called Time Warp on the Discovery Channel and they did a segment on water drops. That is what inspired me give a try, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I get inspiration every day from the amazing artists on 500px.com like Corrie White, Markus Reugels, and Michael Eggers.
Q: Any final thoughts on this style of photography?
Jay: This style of photography is not for the impatient. When I am doing it, I will shoot anywhere between 400 to 800 photos to get the shot. On a bad night, I might not get anything worth keeping. On a good night, I might keep around 10%. Every drop will be unique, and once you catch that first one, you will be hooked.