One of my favourite parts about teaching is how much I end up learning from the process. In a recent class one of my students mentioned an intriguing idea for a macro shoot. He shared this video with me, and it seemed too interesting an idea to pass up. The beauty of this project is in the simplicity. All you need is a clear glass bowl, some cooking oil, water, and some colourful paper or fabric. The photographer in the video uses an old hawaiian shirt, but my closet is slightly less exciting, so I used some spaceship wrapping paper. Simply raise the bowl above the floor using glasses or books or whatever else you have handy, add water and a bit of oil, place the colourful paper/fabric underneath, and start shooting!
Like so many of my projects, this probably would have been much easier with a tripod, but mine is on its last legs (pardon the pun) and could not be trusted to support my camera pointing straight down into a dish of oil and water. So, hand-holding it was. Because I was shooting inside instead of outdoors on a bright sunny day, I used a studio flash to give me the light I needed, which meant my shutter speed was nice and fast, even at 100 ISO. The tricky thing was focus. Autofocus was having a hard time finding the edges of the shapes, particularly after I stirred the water to break up the oil bubbles, so I switched to manual mode and tried to keep my camera on a level where I had focus just on the surface of the water and oil. I ended up with a bunch of photos that weren’t quite sharp enough, but I do like the flexibility of being able to aim the camera on the fly instead of relying on whatever composition the camera is pointing at from the tripod.
The possibilities from this simple set-up are really endless, and I definitely plan to explore this in more depth in the future. My next experiment will most likely involve trying to get nice and close up to those individual bubbles to see what sort of reflection/refraction I can get from the paper below. Been having so much fun with this year’s experiments so far – can’t wait to try something else new and exciting!