There’s quite a bit of work that goes into making successful water droplet photo images. I highly recommend a day that the weather is foul or another reason you need to be indoors. Having time to play is a bonus.

Before I get going, be sure to check out part one of this series.

Getting started

This is not absolutely necessary but I recommend thickening your water. Take a teaspoon of xanthan gum and add it to a quart of warm water. Mix thoroughly. I recommend using a blender, but a spoon can work. Start with the blender on a slow speed.

After blending completely, strain the mixture with cheesecloth to remove solid particulates. Please know that this requires experimentation as each shoot will be totally different. A slight difference in the mixture can have a large impact on your resulting droplets.

Ensure the area in which you are working is level. You’ll want to do this to get more consistent results as your water drops will go straight up as the second drop is making the splash.

Fill your drip container with water or the thickened water mixture. Fill to overflowing. Science says that we can fill the container to higher than the edge due to surface tension. This can make the edge of your container disappear. Fill your Pluto Valve with liquid.

The water and splashes appear very slick in part because of the xanthum gum thickening agent added.

Set focus

Put camera in manual focus, and watch where the drop falls. I use a chopstick as a marker. Focus on your marker. Then, move on to the automatic settings in the Pluto Trigger app.

Initial settings for trigger

Place a color background behind the drop zone, and mount your camera on tripod.

Then connect Pluto Trigger to remote port on camera. Using the Pluto’s Aux port, connect the Pluto Valve. Place a flash trigger in the hot shoe of the camera, and set flashes to light the background and water droplets.

Gear view of the Pluto Trigger Flash Delay. Used for automatically making adjustments to flash timing.

Once the general setup is in place, open the Pluto app on your phone. Set Drop 1 size to 10ms as a beginning point. For the rest of the settings, choose zero.

Next, activate gear view of Flash Delay by pushing the gear to the right. Set the delay to 20ms, and choose 5ms for the step. This will be the change in delay between each drop and flash — the interval should be between 5-10 seconds. This will give the drop zone time to clear from disturbances and bubbles between photos.

Make photos until you see the bounce return of the droplet achieving its highest point. Continue until the photo is showing the return drop at its highest point. You might want to run the process again where the droplet begins, and change the step to 1-2ms. Once you have determined the highest point of the drop, close out of the flash delay menu.

Pluto Trigger APP interface showing controls for two drops and flash.

Small changes

For the Drop 2 size, set it to 10-20ms. Use the gear next to the Drop 2 delay to set it to 50ms. The step should be between 1-5ms with a similar interval of 10ms.

Watch the photos until you begin to capture a collision between the first and second drops. Use the gears to automatically change the size and duration settings of the first and second drops and flash delay. Then it’s experiment time!

As you experiment, the very small changes can yield enormously different resulting splashes. Play around with making small changes to each drop size or flash delay or drop delay, but only make one change at a time. I also recommend shooting at least 2-3 drops at a new setting before changing. Try changing the background color paper, adding gels to your flashes or adding color to the water.

Play, play, play!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob