The explanation for yesterday's PotD

So, yesterday, I posed a question if anyone could guess HOW this photo was taken, and I've asked people in the past about it, and they always seem intrigued by the deceptive simplicity of the whole setup. There are, however, several little tricks in there that make a world of difference in the final image, so I'm gonna go over those in today's post, hoping to inspire maybe 1 or 2 of you to experiment with something and just see what happens.

It started off as a very basic idea to take macro photos of waterdroplets and maybe try to get something brightly coloured and interesting to refract. 1st problem - I needed some sort of glass pane that I could lay flat, so that the water drops would stay as they are, and I could also see through them bellow. The only option for a relatively flat and clear piece of glass I could find around my house without breaking a window, was an old kitchen cutting board. It has skratches all over it, which are definitely visible in the image, but it was good enough for my experiment. Then, there were a few questions floating in my head:

  1. What would look interesting when refracted through some water droplets?
  2. How should the glass cutting board be positioned so that I can actually put something underneath it?
  3. How should I light water and glass without too many distracting reflections?

Here's a couple more decent images from that experiment, but clearly the background elements are not early as colourful, dense and bright as they could be. Also, the I managed to get much bigger droplets to stay as one on the glass for the final image.

The secret sauce of this entire setup would have to be the distance between the glass with the droplets on it and the background that I wanted to be refracted. What I quickly figured out was that anything I put underneath that wasn't a solid colour would look... well... spotty and not very nice. BUT by raising the glass higher on a couple of boxes, and focusing very closely on the droplets with a large aperture (small f/ number), allowed for the background to go enough out of focus to appear like solid colours. In reality it was no more than a few colourful scribbly lines on a page.

In terms of lighting, I knew I wanted it to be big and soft so that I don't get any weird shadows from the droplets or the glass itself on the background, but I also wanted it to be fairly contrasty. I ended up using my flash, firing into a mid-sized white reflective umbrella, which was positioned at a very standard 45/45/45 degree angle (as a rule of thumb) and pretty much as close to the glass I could get it.