How to capture a waterdrop in focus.

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Parkerman, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. Parkerman

    Parkerman TPF Noob!

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    Alright, so.. I've been having some problems doing this and its getting kinda irritating. I have the nikon 60mm Macro lens and I am shooting with a D40 and using an SB-600.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/macalicious/79246700/

    That is what I am trying to achieve, the image within the droplet be in focus. But it seems like everything I try... Just doesn't come out right and just about everything ends up appearing blurry.

    How do people achieve this?
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    hmm never done this before* but done a fair amount of macro work so here is how I would approach it.
    Firstly I am unsure if your after a single waterdrop on a plant (aka out in the field) or if your looking more at the waterdrop sculptures - where often one will setup a leaky tap and go for shots of waterdrops landing - so here is the story for both:

    1) Waterdrop on a plant - its a standard macro shot so its standard macro process. That means AF is turned off and you use manual focus - next up you have to decide if your shooting handheld or from a tripod - a tripod will let you shoot with a slower shutter speed but remember that out in the field wind can be present even on a still day so never let your speed get too slow or you will get blur (even if your eyes can't see it moving).
    With the lens set to manual focus all the way in and then manually move the camera closer or further away from the subject until the focus is where you want it to be in the shot - if the subject won't fit the frame as you like then adjust the focus a little and recompose - but stay in manual mode - AF just gets confused at macro.
    Lighting is also key and much of waterdrop work is done with flashes for added effect - if your using flash the light really needs to be diffused (even if its just your popup) you can get diffuses for flashes (I have found that a lumiquest softbox works well) though for quick and cheap you can get some folds of white toilet paper and hold that infront of the flash (some eslastic bands can also be used to hold it in place provided that they don't cross the flash head).
    Then it a case of taking the shot - for macro you generally want a small aperture (high f number) in the regoin of f8-f13 but smaller numbers can work well also.

    2) If your after the dripping taps and water sculptures then its a similar method - this time it works best to shoot from a tripod. setup the tap and a container for the water to fall into - make sure the container is full and then focus your camera on the area where the drip hits (this is why a drippy tap is handy since it keeps on dripping). Once you have the shot framed focus in on where the drops land and get your focus so that the drop appears in focus - again we are working in manual mode only.
    With the shot focused you can then relax and used burst shooting as a drop hits the water to get a shot. Again smaller apertures, flash and (in this case also) fast shutter speeds - are all important (though one could be creative with a slower shutter speed and water blur).
    Also note that many people will move the lighting (flash) off camera for this - google around its a popular method and there are quite a few different setups to try
     
  3. Dubious Drewski

    Dubious Drewski TPF Noob!

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    I haven't read the above post. I don't know what it covers. But this is how I'd shoot it:

    1. Put the lens in manual focus(almost always do this with macro work).

    2. turn the focus ring so that it's focusing as close as possible(Or a little bit back from that; your call)

    3. hold the camera and move your head into the shot to get focus. Simply focusing on the droplet will automatically reveal a focused background through it.

    Hint: if your shutter speed is dipping too low(like 1/60 or below), then handheld won't work and you need to tripod this. And this is likely to happen, because this type of shot requires a small aperture; like f8 and smaller. Sadly, for the kind of shot you're trying to get, a strobe probably won't help you work handheld, because you need the whole background lit up as well as your immediate subject.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2008
  4. Parkerman

    Parkerman TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the reply.

    I guess I really needed to pull my tripod out. I was going hand held earlier today. I know I need to go with a smaller aperture, but.. when i do that.. of course I lose a lot of light and end up with a dark background.

    Hopefully soon I will have a way of moving the flash off camera.. be it a trigger or cord. But I guess it will be trial and error to figure it out.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    how is it that I write a whole paragraph and then someone sums it up in 3 bullet points ! ;)

    Anyway handheld should be possible if your using you flash. Of course for this kind of subject tripod really is the best route and its not to tricky to get (the drop is not going to fly away ;)).
    Try f13, ISO 200, 1/200sec shutter speed. I am not sure what flash you have access to, but those are the settings I have used to good effect in the field.
     
  6. Parkerman

    Parkerman TPF Noob!

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    Well, the reason i think hand held doesn't seem to be working is any slight movement seems to throw the focus off. If a focus it on the drop.. take the picture.. and while taking the picture accidently move backwards a little bit.. or the leaf that the drop is on moves some.. my focus plane is off.

    Im using the SB-600 as a flash, which use to be the mid grade nikon flash before the SB-900 came out. If I do the settings you say, just about everything except what the flash hits will appear black.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The sample shot looks to be shot with ambient, not flash. The light is coming though the drop from the scene, so unless you are using the flash to light up the background, you probably won't get similar results.

    As for hitting the focus, while shooting hand held...try shooting in bursts while moving slightly in and out. It might take a lot of shoots...but chances are that one of them will be in the right spot. This probably won't work with flash of course.
     
  8. Parkerman

    Parkerman TPF Noob!

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    Yea, just to give reference.. Here is a picture I just took... straight from the camera.


    [​IMG]

    F13
    1/200 shutter
    200iso
    Flash was on +3 exposure.
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    try half pressing the shutter button (like when you use AF) whilst focusing - that way when you get the focus where you want it you can press the rest of the button - its a smaller action so causes less movement. Also some people grip a camera as they press the shutter button - try to lose this if you do - don't grip the whole hand, just move one finger.
    Also if your working inside then sometimes a colourd background can help a lot. If your finding the shutter speed to fast try slowing down - 1/60 should be possible for a water drop on the 60mm without problems (good standing and pose - resting on a kitchen side or a tree when outside helps as well).
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ok if that's the type of pictures you are taking ditch the flash completely.

    Tripod, and an aperture just wide enough to cover the water droplet, and by far most important, watch the contrast and direction of the lighting. This is the problem you are having. The flash is illuminating the droplet and not what is behind it. So the droplet itself has nothing of interest to reflect and does not stand out.

    Had I moved the camera down slightly on this photo it was have been rather boring (white sky against white sky). You can just make out some droplets in the foreground which have completely disappeared because they are refracting a surrounding with the exact same colour and detail.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For this shot, I used a 100mm macro lens and ambient light. If you want something reflected in the droplet, you first have to focus the droplet by moving the object back and fourth, up and down until the image is as sharp as you can get it. Then focus the lens on the droplet. I think I used a fairly minimal aperture like f/18 maybe to get the aloe plant in focus too. The shutter speed worked out to like a second maybe. Tripod was the only way to do it of course. I also used a mirror lockup to prevent any movement from the action.
    [​IMG]

    For capture of a motion shot of a droplet, which is quite addictive, I think I used a strobe. This takes a lot of trail and error and if you google you can find some pretty elaborate set up to rig this with a water bag with a constant rate of drip and it's always in the same place. I used a eye dropper but made it hit in about the center of the bowl each time. To get a frame of reference for focusing, I held a tiny object about an inch over the center of the bowl and manually focused it, then left it on MF so that it wouldn't try and focus each time and miss the shot. Again, I think it was the 100mm macro lens and a good solid tripod.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Joves

    Joves No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well if it is static drops then you could set the focus to manual and measure the distance to the subject. Then adjust your lens to that distance if you have one with markings. Does the D40 have a focal plane marking on the body? I really dont know, you need that to measure from. It will be on top if it is there or, look in the manual to see how to do that if it is there. Either way it is all trial and, error for moving water drops.
     

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