When I asked for the glass baking tray along with two glass tumblers from the kitchen, my better half was surprised. Then when I asked for spoonful of olive oil, her surprise increased. Knowing my culinary skills she was also worried what havoc I am going to create in the kitchen. She was relieved to see when I carried all these back to my bedroom where I had setup my camera rig. I wanted to capture oil on water abstracts which I had experimented long back during my B&W film days, but never tried with digital camera. Those days I used to struggle as I did not have any macro lenses with me. This time I have my 100mm macro lens which worked great.
Here is how I setup the shoot. On a low height table, I kept 2 glass tumblers inverted and used it support the baking tray by its handle. This rectangular baking tray was filled with clean filtered water (don’t use plain tap water, you may have to struggle in post processing trying remove all the small specs of dust floating on the water surface). Then pour a spoonful of any oil. I used olive oil (virginity of which is immaterial). Use a long spoon to stir the mixture and break it into small bubble floating in water. Place some color paper under the baking tray. I used red & blue colored semi-transparent nylon bag to give the background color. You can also use any type of color paper or cloth.
For illumination you can use any type of light, it can be window light hitting the background. Here I used Aputure Amaran AL-528S LED Light Lamp which is a constant light panel consisting of 528 LED lights. I placed the colored nylon bags over this cold light source and used it as illuminated background material. You can use flash or even a powerful table lamp. The idea is to make the background brightly lit so that light passes through the water & oil interface.
Camera should be mounted on a sturdy tripod and placed vertically over the surface of water. Use either cable release or remote control to fire the shutter button and reduce the vibration. You need to make sure that you are perfectly perpendicular to the surface. Now focus on the bubbles of oil floating on the water (not on the background) and start shooting. I used a shallow Depth of field using f/5.6 which gave me the best results as compared to the deeper depth of field. When the water & oil mixture is stirred using spoon (don’t dip your finger) you can change composition and will create newer abstracts. This was a fun project which will also give you quite a lot of interesting possibilities along with great abstracts.
Here is the YouTube video shot after the shoot showing how the patterns changes during capture. Sorry for all the dust in the water as I was packing up the shoot and the dust had settled in on the surface of the water. It can be very troublesome to remove such dust via post processing.
EXIF info – Aperture : ƒ/5.6 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Taken : 8 December, 2013 | Flash fired : no | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4.0311′ 0″ N 74° 59.7279′ 0″ E | Shutter speed : 1/60s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.