A friend of my told me about a shot he had seen some years ago, with water drops on a glass plate. Under this plate some pencils were spread out in a star shape. I thought that sounded really cool and wanted to do something similar.
I didn't have a glass plate but after some searching in our kitchen drawers I found a large bowl with a flat base. I thought that the pencils had to be outside the depth of field so I put this bowl on top of some DVD covers so that I got some space between the bowl and pencils.
I didn't have all the pencil colors so the color wheel wasn't complete, but to drive to the store to buy more pencils would be insane...
I thought I was on a roll. The setup was almost too easy. Of course I bumped into a big problem: the water drops. I didn't have any equipment to make water drops. A pipette would be perfect, but we didn't have any. I searched every corner of the house to find something, but no. The closest thing I found was a soap dispenser in the trash. I had to wash it for 30 minutes just to get all the soap out of it. Still that wasn't enough. But I was impatient so I thought I just had to deal with it.
I filled it with water and tried to make small water drops. It was an awful tool to work with. It wasn't completely watertight so it poured water everywhere. That's not a good thing when you want to control the flow of water.
Caution: Nudity in the photo below:
I didn't count the time, but two episodes of King of Queens ran in the background before I finally got a pleasing arrangement of water drops. Easy math:) A tip: It was easier to use cold water than hot water. The water seemed less liquid in a cold state so that they didn't mix very easy.
OK, now with everything set up it was time for the fun part: The lighting. I didn't have any plan for that, but I wanted to try soft lighting first. I mounted an umbrella close to the pencils and did a manual test shot.
Suprisingly it looked good and I hadn't done any adjustments to the camera nor the flash... I was afraid that the top of the umbrella would ruin the whole scene but no glare was visible:) Still I wanted to tweak the settings and ended up with the following:
Flash: 1/16 power @ 24mm zoom
Camera: 1/250 @ f/4 ISO 200
Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF
Finding the right aperture was tricky. I wanted as much of the drops in focus but still I wanted the pencils to be as blurry as possible. f/4 was a good compromise.
I did a couple of shots with different angles and heights and ended up with this shot ("straight out of the camera" RAW file)
After adding some blacks in Adobe Camera Raw I imported it to Photoshop and did the following:
- Increased the brightness a bit in Levels
- Increased the contrast in Curves
- Added a vignette with the Lens distortion tool
What I could have done differently:
- Bought a pipette. I would have had much more control of the water drops and the shape so that they would have been more or less circular and uniform. I think the "pencil star" would be more visible in each drop that way.
- Increased the height between the pencils and the glass bowl so that the pencil would become more blurry.