Flowers in a Bubble
Steve Wall combines the best of macro photography with a fantastic imagination, to create some spectacular images.
This article was originally published in September 2010.
With this series, I wanted to squeeze flowers into those tiny drops of water.
I worked on this series from 2006–2008. I still take these pictures now and then, even today.
Photographing water droplets can be a very, very addictive hobby.
Having always been drawn to nature and wildlife photography, I love taking my camera to capture images of seldom-seen animals and exotic scenery. We cannot always plan distant adventures to shoot photographs. But we can train our eyes to find beauty in our own backyards. My fascination with water drops has been long standing. I am often asked if the images inside the water drops are real or the product of Photoshop. Let me assure you they are real, and anyone can find them if they know how to look.
The challenge is to find unique water drops with clear images refracted inside them with backgrounds that enhance but do not distract the viewer. If the drop or the photographer moves even a little, it changes the composition and perspective. It has been an evolutional process for me—some images have happened through sheer luck, and some while lying flat on my belly using a Diet Coke can as tripod.
The basic idea for taking interesting water drop photographs is to find big drops after a rain on a humid day with no wind, with attractive objects in the background. Then, all I needed to do was to get the shot in focus with a nice composition.
The trick is to have enough depth-offield so that the drop and the plant are all in focus, while leaving the background sufficiently blurred so it does not compete for attention. I generally use f/8 to f/10 but go as narrow as f/18. Having perfect focus of the object refracted in the drop is desired, but sometimes it is much better to have a more abstract picture with less focused colours.
Almost every time I set out to take photographs of water drops, I have learnt something new. For instance, when photographing water drops, the shape of the drop has a great influence on the composition. I like to experiment with my camera and try dozens of different settings and angles for focus, depth-of-field, contrast, bokeh and composition.
What I have learnt is that since you are working with nature, the control over the background is limited. One has to work with what is available. It is as simple as learning how chess pieces move, and just as complex as a game of chess.
I use a Nikon D200 with a Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. I often rely on a large sheet of insulation, which is bright blue on one side. I initiallly used it to block the wind, but realised that it can also mimic a perfect azure blue sky.
Capturing the Perfect Droplet
- Strive For Clarity: For greatest clarity, the object should be 3–4 inches behind the water drop. This, of course, may vary if using a different macro lens.
- Adjusting the Exposure: Adjusting the exposure (-0.3EV to -0.7EV) would compensate for the natural sheen of the surface of the water drop, keeping it from being somewhat burnt out.
- Cropping for Better Focus: A sharper focus can be achieved by backing away just a little and cropping the photo, rather than getting as close as possible in an attempt to get maximum magnification.
- Work on Humid Days: Getting bigger, more cohesive and more interesting drops is possible on humid days.
- Avoid Windy Days: Even the slightest wind can have disastrous effects on macro focusing, as well as on the water drops themselves.
Visit www.flickr.com/photos/stevewall to see more of Steve’s work with water droplets.