Splashing My Way Through Quarantine

These days of social distancing are sliding dangerously into days of social isolation, adding to the slight COVID-related anxiety I may feel from time to time.  On top of that, the spring days are turning quite nice, making me want to get outside with my camera.  While I’ve certainly managed to do just that, still observing all of the CDC recommended practices, I’ve also spent more time photographing in and around my house.  One of my favorite studio projects is water drop collision photography, and this is a perfect time to hone those skills.

Water drop photography requires that you use your camera in manual mode, making exposure adjustments as you go.  It also requires a speedlight or two to freeze the action, which means that you’ll get very familiar optimizing flash units with your camera.  In short, this is a great way to build some technical skills while creating beautiful images.


It’s easy to get started and you really don’t even have to have special equipment.  My first water drop images were made using a water-filled Ziplock bag with a pin prick hole to obtain a steady stream of droplets.  With a lot of patience, and working in a darkened room, I was able to time a flash with the splash of water.  That much alone was a really fun exercise.  Using that same technique I was able to capture some other entertaining splash images (think strawberries splashing into a bowl of milk).

Since then, I’ve moved to using a control module which synchronizes a series of events, starting with the release of a droplet or two from a valve, which then triggers a flash and a shutter release at a specified time.  These events are clocked down to the millisecond, and as you might imagine, there is a great deal of fidgeting that has to happen to capture the action of water drops colliding at exactly the right moment.  Fidgeting aside, the controller allows me to send multiple drops out of the valve and catch rebounding droplets colliding midair.  Once I get the controller settings dialed in, I can create a very consistent collision, shot after shot, with the only variation being the resulting splash of the collision.  Using different liquids, different additives, and different set-ups, I can create images that are unique and captivating. 

This is a great time to get started with water drop photography, since many of us are staying home.  If you’re interested in giving it a try, there are excellent online resources available, and I’m always within reach via email if you want to talk about controllers or set-ups.  When our COVID seclusion comes to an end, and we all hope it will be soon, I may even be able to put on a hands-on workshop where folks can try it out for themselves.  But be warned: it’s highly addictive!

Claudia O’Grady

WCC Secretary