Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Water Drop Set-Up

Okay, I promised to detail the set-up for the water drop shots I posted last week so here goes…and no critiquing my drawing ability; I take photos specifically because I can’t draw.

The key ingredients:
  • Nikon D300, 70-200 f2.8 lens, SB900 speedlight and an SU800 commander unit
  • Coffee mug – or anything type of container that will catch the water drop
  • Ruler – or something you can use a reference to set your focus
  • Something that produces water drops – in this case it was a leaky faucet; however, your faucet doesn’t have to be leaking you just need to open it up a little
So, the mug goes in the sink, obviously. However, the sink has a curved basin and the mug didn’t sit flat so I found a 5x5 piece of flat plastic to set the mug on in order to keep it level. I set my camera off to the right of the sink about 45 degrees. Because of the minimum focus distance of the 70-200, I needed the space to back up, and that room is longer than it is wide. I placed the SB900 to camera left at about the same 45 degree angle; I was using the SU800 commander unit on camera to trigger the flash and control the power levels.

I used the ruler to set my focus manually. I placed the ruler standing up inside the mug. From there I was able to set my focus on the ruler marks at approximately the spot I expected all of the action to be. After that, it was take a shot, zoom in on the LCD to check focus, make a tiny focus adjustment and shoot again. Sounds simple right? I shot 103 exposures, 8 had a decent focus, and 4 made the cut. That’s about a 4% success rate.

I shot in manual mode and the camera settings were variable as I was constantly tweaking things. Shutter speed was fast at 1/1000 to 1/2000. Aperture was between f8 and f11 as I was trying a keep a decent depth of field without shutting out too much light.

Flash was on manual and I started at around ¼ power. However, I wasn’t initially getting the light I was hoping for so I had 3 options: 1) Slow down my shutter speed and risk not being able to freeze the action, 2) open up my aperture and lose some depth of field, or 3) crank up the power on the SB900. Well, I’m a guy so of course I cranked up the power; first to ½ and then I pushed it up to full power (aye, givin’ it all she’s got captain). I also found that if I zoomed the SB900 to 200mm I was able to get more concentrated and “punchy light” (let’s thank Joe McNally’s “Hot Shoe Diaries”). 




  1. My wife would probably hit me with the wrench if I ran to get my camera while the faucet leaks. Veds ;o)

  2. The trick... wait for your wife to go out, shoot like mad, and then clean up before she gets back! ;o)