How many times have you been asked, “What is your favorite subject to photograph?” For me, that is always such a hard question to answer because honestly I love almost everything that photography has to offer. Whether it is waking up early to shoot a sunrise, capturing a pure moment between people, photographing the sunset over Manhattan, or taking stylized photos of a lovely model, if it excites me then I want to shoot it.
With all my passion for this fantastic art form, what I actually don’t love is the cold. I live in NY so I am going to have to endure it, but after a few weeks of taking charming snow photos, I am done. And that is exactly how taking photos of water drops came about.
It was a freezing winter back in 2014 and I was bored. My creative juices needed a bit of revving up, yet I had enough of all the snow and needed to find an indoor project. While browsing online, I came across photos of the coolest thing I had ever seen, macro water drops. Wow! Incredible! I wanted to do that. But how? Well, how else does one learn anything these days? Watch a tutorial online of course.
Now, I won’t go into all the technicalities, but I went to the store, bought myself some foam board for a makeshift light box, pulled out a glass bowl, taped some colored paper to the back of my box and jimmy rigged a bag of water to drip precisely into the bowl as instructed. My camera was set up on it’s tripod and I set up some nice, off camera flash. I was ready. Bring it on!
Well, here comes the game changer for me. The instructor explained that I should place a pencil tip into the bowl just where the water will drip so that I could pre-focus my lens and lock it in before I start shooting. Pre-focus? Brilliant. I pulled out a red pencil from my cabinet, focused, took a look through my viewfinder and knocked off a few rounds. To my surprise I LOVED the way the pencil looked in the water with the drips hanging off, refracting the lovely blue swirls inside its droplets from the background.
While the snow continued to pile up outside, my creativity was fired up inside. I went off to the dollar store to buy lots of fun items that I could use to refract inside of the water drops, and other items that I could use to drip the water from.
This little project was entertaining, challenging and at times physically exhausting. It took a lot of trial and error to get it just right. Deciding what size image or object to place in the background that would refract best into a drop was always a challenge, as was the task of holding the pencil or object that the water dripped off at just the right angle. This process can take hours and requires a bit of patience and out of the box thinking. But the thrill of looking through my images and seeing what I captured in the end was always rewarding!
Although some of my ideas didn’t work out as I had hoped, many of them did. Over the years I have collected a dollar stores worth of random objects, some which didn’t photograph well at all and others that looked fantastic. I experimented with items such as plastic cutlery (not the best), fruit, balloons, paper plates, paint brushes, wine bottles, wire, flowers and photographs, to name just a few.
This little undertaking has been my “go-to” winter venture for the last few years. As I progressed through this project, I decided I didn’t want to just create interesting images, but I wanted them to be visual puns or a play on words.
Here are a few of my favorites. Can you guess what I used as the backdrop?
Did you guess a deflated, Mylar balloon with a happy face on it? If you did then you would be correct. I call this one: Pour Me Some Happy.
The backdrop for Patriotic Drops was an ordinary American Flag paper plate from the dollar store!
This one is called Love Notes and I used a gift bag from the dollar store as the backdrop. Yes, I do love the Dollar Store.
I call this one Paint Ball. The backdrop is a paper cut out of a basketball from a local party supply store.
Who doesn’t love some Hot Peppers? (Yes, those were real peppers, but the smoke was photoshopped..shhhh)
So what is my favorite type of photography? I really don’t have one, but if I had to choose, I would say that taking photos of water drops definitely makes me smile!
You can see more of Alissa’s work at her website.