Frozen Motion Photography ~ Geeked Out Project

When I posted several of these water droplet photos on Flickr in my P52 set, several people asked, ‘how was that made?’  Time to share the knowledge.

Modern DSLR cameras can be very fast. My Nikon D700 will shoot up to 1/8000 of a second, but guess what? That’s not fast enough for these shots. Instead we will depend on the speed of light to capture these images.

The process for making frozen images of droplets requires a relatively dark room, a flash, an electronic timer with photogate, water, and patience. Some time ago, I purchased the basic electronic delay kit from HiViz. With all the excitement of a kid at Christmas, I began assembling the various components. Distractions appeared and I set the kit aside, only to be forgotten for quite some time. Perhaps I was simply waiting for my genius electronics whiz son to mature enough to help out. Anyway, I turned over my half-baked kit to him only to have him reappear within an hour. Yes, he finished it within an hour. I think it was kinda like the pickle jar, I did the hard part and he takes the credit for popping the lid off. 🙂

If you’re considering taking on this project, I really need to give you a heads up. If the construction of this electronic kit didn’t phase you, first of all, you’re a total geek~in a good way, secondly, you’ll still need to plan much more than an hour to start getting quality images from this process. Heck, look at the disaster that was my work table in the image below. Shooting little water droplets requires a ton of prep and set up, but the results speak for themselves.


Here are the steps for making a successful water droplet photo

  • DSLR with macro lens
  • Hold pencil in water at the drop point and manually focus lens
  • Turn out lights
  • Camera’s shutter is locked open in Bulb mode
  • Release water droplet
  • Droplet passes through and trips photogate
  • Electronic adjustable delay waits for droplet to descend
  • Delay expires and flash is triggered
  • Camera’s shutter is manually closed
  • Image is checked
  • Delay is adjusted slower or faster
  • Repeat process

So the camera is essentially locked down in manual mode and the flash firing is the only event that is captured. Experiment with different aperture settings to adjust the depth of field. Lower (or more open) aperture settings will allow more ambient light to be absorbed. Introduce different surrounding colors that will reflect in the water droplets. When I first started, I only had a blue paper under and around the scene, and it wasn’t very dynamic. I added the orange paper to the side and this added a completely different dimension to the photos.

Have you tried this yourself? Or, are you geeky enough to give it a whirl? 🙂
Let me know, leave a comment below.