Photographing Raindrops (Part 1)

Saturday morning, we had some big ol’ storms come through Da Lou. They woke me around 5am, and with the house quiet with sleep, I decided to shoot some raindrops from the storm.

I found that the rain was moderating as I was setting up, and by the time I was ready, we were down to drips of rain. Still, it was a good opportunity to play. Now, the sky was really dark due to the clouds still over us, and that drove me to crank the ISO up on the shots. The Canon EOS 7D can make some acceptable images at high ISO, but with pretty dark conditions already, and a need to have a decently deep depth of field… well, my images weren’t quite where I wanted ’em to be.

So, I started thinking about flash for the drops. The forecast was for more rain, so I started puzzling out how I might add my Canon 580 EX II flash into the picture. (Pardon the pun.) The more I thought about improving my shots, the more I thought I’d wanna take advantage of the wireless capabilities of this flash when used with my 7D. This would let me put the light where the drops are falling. All good.

My brain sometimes will get just a little too far down the path, and this morning was no exception. I thought, if just a flash was nice, why not use the strobe feature from my flash? That might make for some interesting shots, freezing the action over and over again in the same frame. Well, it was a great idea while it lasted. You see, you can’t use the strobe feature on the 580EX wirelessly. D’oh!

That meant going wired. The only extension cable I had was a curly job, maybe 12-18″ long, and nowhere near long enough for what I needed. You see, I wanted to put the flash outside, and keep the camera inside and dry. (But won’t the flash get wet? I’ll get to that in a bit.)

I looked around the ‘Net, trying to find anything about extending the reach of my hotshoe cable. I found an article at Vu Le Photography that described how to use a pair of wall-mount Cat5 receptacles to extend a hotshoe cable using a simple Cat5 cable. A quick run to Home Depot, along with getting up the guts to cut my not-inexpensive cable in two, and I was ready to go. The instructions were clear, and inside 30 minutes, I had a extendable cable.

I connected the Cat5 cable between the two ends of my previously intact cable, and… it worked! I was able to use the strobe mode on my flash from afar.

Remember I said I was gonna leave my flash out in the rain? I figured I needed to find a container to enclose the flash, keeping it dry, while still having it near the raindrops. I thought about buckets, and other kinds of rainshields. And then I went in the kitchen… One of Becky’s Lock&Lock containers — a tall 1.5L container, perhaps this one — was the perfect size to hold the 580EX, and hold it upright! In fact, I could even put the all the cable connections inside the container. I cut a small notch in the lip to let the Cat5 cable pass through, and on the bench, it all works.

With storms coming tonight and tomorrow, I should have a chance to put it to the test. We’ll see if all the work will pay off!

Stay tuned…