I noticed quite a few threads about water drop shots, but no real how to for people wanting to know how to get some great shots, so I thought I would share what I have have picked up during my time as a drop addict.
They key to a good shot is freezing the action, and the best way to do this is to use your flash as the shutter, rather than your camera. Your on camera flash will work, but a separate flash gun is the best way. A flashgun can give you a burst of light as short as 1/20,000th of a second when its set to its lowest power, way faster than any DSLR's faster shutter speed. Using this in a dark(ish) room you can afford to set your shutter speed up to a 1 second exposure at ISO 200 or 400 without any loss in quality.
The next bit to master is getting your drops to land where you want them and a steady rate, especially if you are after collision shots like this.
The easiest way to do this is to build a device known as a mariotte syphon which is basically a bottle with a tube out of the bottom for the water to drip through, and one through the top to regulate the air flow. The speed at which your drops drip is based on the height difference between the bottom of the air intake tube and the water outlet tube. Bigger the difference, the faster your flow of drops. You can knock one up with some fish tank airline tube, a coke bottle and some silicone sealer for a couple of pounds/dollars. The best thing about a mariotte syphon is that the drop rate will not change however full or empty your water bottle gets, it stays constant.
You are aiming for a flow of drips that is almost a constant stream but not quite, maybe 10 drops a second or so. Its hard to say, but if you get things dripping and just sit firing off your flash gun while staring at the splashes you will be able to see if they are colliding or not, as the image gets burned into your retina for a split second. Having a pile of cd's to adjust the height difference between your bottle and outlet pipe is also handy to adjust the flow rate of the drops.
OK so you have go this far, you must be on your way to becoming a true drop-head.
Now you have your bottle dripping drips into your water tray, one hand on your camera remote release ( you have one of these dont you? makes life easier) one on your flash gun's test fire button. Fire off your cameras shutter, then hit the flash gun to set it off, after about 100 shots you might get one that's a keeper. Trust me once you get that first awesome shot you will be hooked. You do get an eye for the correct flow rate and once you get it right you will get collision after collision, and then it just down to timing the flash gun.
Right so now you have 'mastered' capturing collision shots its time to think about making them look cool.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bambi72/5297406091/
You want a nice flat mill pond look with a magic splash in the middle, so you have to capture those first two drops hitting the water. Just hold a cup under the flow of drops (and have one hand on your camera remote release and one on your flash...) remove the cup, press the shutter, fire the flash and bingo! You all do have three hands right?
OK, I'll admit that last shot was taken using a trigger to fire the flash.
This is the next phase of your addiction, and this is where it starts costing you some money....
I started off with a infra-red beam trigger/delay unit bought from hi-viz, which 'watches' for a drip to pass thru an infra-red beam then fires your flash gun after a pre-determined delay. With one of these kits you can push your success rate from 1 in 100 to about 1 in 10 or less. They don't cost tooooo much either, and you don't have to know any electronics. If you can build an airfix plane, you can make one of these.
If you have got this far you probably don't need any help any more and you have googled stopshot, timemachine, and camera axe, and have seen what is commercially available to help you get those truly awesome shots. But if you are like me and don't have or like spending all that money there are cheaper ways to get sub-millisecond timing and total control over your water drops.
I think I will save this for another post if people are interested. have a peek at my crap website if you are. Oh and check out a flickr group I created for fellow drop-heads, Digital Drops
Sorry if this rambled on a bit and doesn't make much sense, but I hope it helps someone out there.
Made with my homebrew timing kit...
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bambi72/5521188172/ IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bambi72/5521370734/
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