Tuesday 9 November 2010

Behind the Scenes - The Dripping tap

I wasn't going to do this, you know. I quite like getting all of those comments about how wonderful my photos of dripping taps are. I love the feeling of knowing how to do something that others don't. I delight in the praise. I  bask in the glory of being a photography goddess.

So, why would I want to tell you how I did it and spoil the illusion of my great skill and photography prowess? Do I really want to let you in on the secret that it is really very simple and actually requires no great skill or expensive photographic equipment?

Oh, what the hell, you did all ask so nicely.

So, here is what you need:

A camera with a flash - the built-in kind works just fine (that is all I have, after all).
A tripod

There, that is it for the actual taking of the photo. I told you it was simple, didn't I? No strobes, no expensive lighting systems, no coloured lights or dancing girls. The camera doesn't have to be expensive either, and you don't need a very fast camera. In fact, the opposite is true - this shot is actually taken at a relatively slow shutter speed.

My camera is a Nikon D80, and I used the lens that it came with - 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 i.e. a cheap lens, nothing special.

OK, so here is what I did:

Set up my camera on the tripod in the bathroom - you need the tripod since you are using a slow shutter speed.
Selected the following settings:
  • Aperture - 5.6 (keep it wide open to blur the background)
  • Shutter speed - 1/8th second (you want it slow to catch the movement of the drop)
  • Flash up and set for rear curtain sync.
  • Remember your white balance - set to flash.
The flash set up is the crucial thing. When you use a flash with a longer exposure, you can set the flash to fire as soon as the shutter opens (this is the standard mode) or you can set the flash to fire at the end of the exposure. By setting it to fire at the end of the exposure, the first part of the exposure blurs and then you freeze the final part with the flash. That is how you can get a motion blur but still a nice sharp image.

Now, sit, point and shoot. And shoot. And shoot. This is the most frustrating part and will probably drive you as nuts as a dripping tap does in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. You will end up with a lot of photos of just the tap. But, once in a while, you will catch the drop. Unfortunately, you can't use the continuous shoot mode, because your flash won't recycle quickly enough.

Oh, yes, you might want to clean your tap first, otherwise everyone that sees your photo will know that you are a bit of a household slut.

So, you now have your photo. Here is mine, SOOC:

As you can see, I am a household slut. Ooops.

Now, you have to go to your photo editing software. I use Photoshop CS3, and that is all I have and all I know how to use. So I shall show you what I did with this software. You will have to modify for whatever you use. Here we go:

  • Crop image and convert to black and white.
  • Adjust contrast using contrast tool or curves.

  • Sharpen image with unsharp mask.
  • Add a filter - I chose the deep blue, density 100%
  • Adjust contrast, brightness etc as desired.

There you go. Not so difficult was it?

If you want to just colour the water drop, you will have to add the photo filter to its own layer and then remove the colour from where you don't want it. I used the cyan photo filter for my drop.

And so the illusion is shattered and I will have to return to being a photography mere mortal. Oh well, it was great while it lasted........


Cortes said...

Fascinating. I really liked the point and shoot part. I can do that!

Susannah Anderson said...

Thanks! Now I see how I can use my camera to take decent photos of my critters!

The "shoot to the power of n" bit is what I usually do, but I had the camera set up wrong.

I'm bookmarking this post for later reminders.

Sistertex said...

Very cool, thanks so much for sharing how you did this shot. I will have to give it a go.

BTW I created a post today, just for you! Check it out when you get a chance. Thanks so much for stopping by to chat too, I always enjoy and appreciate it.


Don't Bug Me! said...

All that effort for three comments!
Oh well......

Cortes: Get your out and go and point and shoot then!

Susannah: Give it a go - you may be surprised at how easy it actually is.

Sistertex: Thanks for the photo! He really is gorgeous, isn't he?

jay said...

Oooh, thank you! I'm going to rush off and try that. Just as soon as I find out how to do that rear curtain sync thingy ...


Great shots! They're still great shots, and I'm still impressed.

Don't Bug Me! said...

Thank you Jay! But really, it isn't that hard. Let's face it, if I can do it.....and don't foget, I have the attention span of a midge!