Some Experiments with Oil and Water

30 Sep

I’ve seen a number of post on the net about photographing oil and water. This article “How I create My Oil & Water Abstracts” is particularly helpful and very pretty.

Seized by the urge to take some photos, Barbara and I hauled out some lighting, a glass container, water, oil, and food colouring. Some of the photos, purely by accident, ended up quite interesting. Setup details below, but first some more pictures to show the range of images we found:

Camera Setup

This was all set up in the kitchen, with what was to hand. A major factor is that, though a friend has lent me her nice Canon EOS 10D, I don’t have a macro lens or off-camera flash for it. Most of the examples I found on the net were of macro shots (some looking very pretty), but that wasn’t an option. We set the camera up on a tripod, as close as possible. One of the ubiquitous plastic “storage cubes” held the glass dish above a 125W halogen worklight, supported on a plate of glass (one of many salvaged from flat bed scanners).

The dish was the lid of a pyrex casserole dish, so it could take the heat. We didn’t know if the glass sheet would stand the heat but if it didn’t, the cube would hopefully contain the debris (especially after the water hit the hot 240V halogen bulb). The first box we used was red, rather than black and that caused quite an interesting tint to some of the images. We also tried inserting a yellow or blue cardboard sheet at one side of the box to add colour variation. The photo above shows a sheet of paper between the glass and the dish – that didn’t work very well at all and we left it out later. Note that the photo above is a composite – with the light on there is a tremendous glare that hides the details.

The accident was that, still being rather a noob at photography, I forgot to reset the aperture from when I was taking landscape photos in the morning. All the photos above were taken at 1/22 aperture which is very small for this setup. Since the camera was on Aperture Priority, the shutter speeds were very slow, generally ranging from  1/20 sec to as slow as 1/5 sec. This caused some really interesting swirling light traces as we stirred the mixture.

Playing with Photoshop

While playing around with these and other photos we took (about 95 for the session), I ended up with this image, which my daughter titled “High Velocity Alien Blood Splatter”:


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