Tag Archives: raindrops

Photographing Raindrops (Part 2)

When last we left our intrepid hero, he was inspired by all the rain to figure out how to capture the raindrops as they hit surfaces. He had built an extension cable and housing for his flash… all he needed was rain. Which had apparently abandoned him.

The Setup
The Setup

Yesterday, that changed. Big storms came through Da Lou, and put raindrop photography back to head of the photographic class. As you can see in the photo, I deployed my flash in its nifty new housing atop my target table. My thinking was that the water would pool on the table, and with the shallow depth, the drop splashes could be pretty impressive.

And the rain fell, and fell, and fell. It was a great storm to practice on, with varying amounts of rainfall to experiment with. For most of the shots, I was using my flash on “multi” mode — stroboscopic — at 199hz (199 flashes/second) and 1/128th power. I did this to capture the droplets as they splashed about, and to keep the stress on the flash down.

Lessons learned? Well there were a few:

  • Power for the flash. Replacing batteries pretty frequently really sucked. Not only was I missing shots, but as the batteries drained, the recycle times got longer and longer. Obviously, I need to find an AC power source for the flash.
  • Controlling the droplets. Let’s face it. The rain falls where the rain falls. Predicting that is very tough, so figuring out where to focus is a mess. I had the camera stopped down in order to get a pretty wide depth of field, but that made every single splatter show up, and in some images, it’s hard to figure out what I really wanted the viewer to focus on. I need to find a way of directing the droplets where I want them, at the pace I’d like (in order words, not a vertical river like a downspout gives you) so I can increase my odds of getting decent images.
  • Snoot. The enclosure does a great job of diffusing the flash, lighting up a lot of splatters, and while that’s great for some of the images, for others, it would’ve been nicer to have a focused source of light. A snoot woulda done that, but I’m not entirely sure how I’d manage that with the waterproof housing. Perhaps it could velcro to the outside? Since the snoot would likely be plastic, it probably doesn’t matter much if it gets wet.
  • Spray and pray. As I mentioned above, rain falls on its own schedule and location. This means that I trigger the shutter endlessly, hoping for the best shot to appear in the frame. Ideally, controlling the location of the falling droplets would be great, but barring that, having some way of triggering the camera only when a droplet hits the area of interest would be great. There are ways to do this, but that’s gonna mean more DIY work!

With all that said, enjoy some of the fruits of about 500 images shot, culled down to 100 or so that were “of interest”, and further culled down to just a few that were pretty dang cool right out of the camera (and a little cropping in Aperture). As you can tell by looking at the images, there are some surprises out there. Big splashes, droplets that shimmer in the stroboscopic light like fireworks in the night sky, and all kinds of minutiae that you’d never see without the aid of the camera. Enjoy!

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…