Water Splash Photos and Ghetto Studio Setups

I have some nice gear, but like everyone there's a budget.  I was given the opportunity to try a new technique with Karlos Dillard (model who has a lot of drive to make it big in the industry).  Karlos approached me with the idea to do a water splash physique shoot that captures some motion.  This set my mind going into overdrive of how to tackle this on the technical side.  After looking around online at various how-to sites, most were for tiny on kitchen table shots of an avocado dropping in water or milk droplet splashing back up.  I needed something that would be fit for a human body.  I don't have a professional studio, but I do have a house and a driveway.  I thought about it, went to Home Depot and bought 100' of 6mil black plastic sheeting and a  4' LED Shop Light.  Then I used some vise grips to hang the black plastic from my gutter, clamping it to the gutter tight.  I let out about 20 feet down in front of my garage door and onto the driveway, sorta like a cheap version of a studio backdrop with a ton of sheen to it.  I then thought about the PNW weather...yup, rain.  So what, it's a water splash shoot...but I don't want to get all my gear or my assistants (Karlos's husband and my wife) wet.  So I went into the garage and pulled out our picnic tent we'd never used.  I set that up, covered the entire interior with a lining of the black plastic and then used an old full size bed black flat sheet as the matte backdrop (absorbs light better than the sheen on black plastic).

Now I have my ghetto studio:

The settings were 1/125 - 1/160 shutter speed, F8 - F22 aperture, 400 iso for most shots.  I had my old Canon 430 EX (pre model II) flash, Cowboy Studio remote trigger set, Canon 5D MKII, Canon 24-70 F4 L, a Cowboy Studio light stand, don't remember the brand white shoot through umbrella, the 4' LED shop light, 250 Lumen CREE torch light and some uber hot as hell halogen shop lights (that's what's lighting the ghetto studio setup there), 2 5gal Home Depot buckets for warm water from the bathroom tub faucet, a plastic container to scoop water, 2 significant other helpers that were very patient and an awesome model.  Time to shoot!

*Click* "damn it, stupid cheap ass remote triggers", they didn't fire.  So after a few tweaks and sighs of disgust in cheap equipment, I started taking photos.  Every once in a while the triggers would fail, I probably needed a new set of batteries as I had to stand 3' from the flash to make the signal work.  Karlos' husband was throwing water on Karlos, my wife was holding the additional lights facing Karlos' cheekbone.

At the end, the LED shop light and 250 Lumen CREE didn't have enough power to really take on a Canon flash, but in Adobe Lightroom you can bump settings up and see the addition of light from the side, so they do have some effect.  I probably could have used a silver reflector and gotten a bit more out of the light from the flash too.

So give it a try.  Find somebody that'll let you throw water on them.

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HDR with Adobe Lightroom

Creating HDR images with Adobe Lightroom is rather easy.  You'll need to start of with at least 3 exposures of the same photo.  You can do this by setting up your camera to take a bracketed shot.  On my Canon 5D MKII, you set the exposure compensation by selecting it with the joystick, then use the wheel on top right of the camera (near the shutter button) and turn it to the left.  I set mine for about 1 stop lower and higher than midrange.  Then use the joystick on the back of the camera to select the shutter options (single, multiple or timers).  Select the multiple shutter option.  When you take photos (until you shut it off) you can hold down the shutter and it'll take 3 shots with 3 different exposures using the bracketed settings you selected for exposure compensation.  Here's an example of what that will be like:

When you have taken your 3 exposures of the same photo, import them into lightroom.  Select them (cmd + click on a Mac) then right click on the thumbnail of one of the selected images, select 'Photo Merge' then select 'HDR'.  From there you select the intensity you wish to use, I used the highest setting and clicked 'Merge' after that.  Here's the output of the 3 exposures as an HDR composite:

Not too shabby!
Photos Copyright Mike Swartz - Swartzwerk Photography
Taken at Sleeping Lady Resort, Leavenworth, WA

Focus Stacking

I'm on a quest to learn new techniques for shooting photos and creating something spectacular. I love the feeling of depth, multiple dimensions in photographs, surreal yet realistic and lifelike. Some people go crazy editing their photos and it ends up either looking like junk or too much like a computer model than a photograph. I came across a technique I want to try and focus (pun intended) on, focus stacking. As I learn more I'll post updates of my experiences, things I did right, things I did wrong.

When I first saw Max Rive's "Above the Comfort Zone", I knew focus stacking was something I need to learn more about. Here's the photo that caught my attention:

For now, here are some links I'm looking at to learn more before diving in:





 I'm a big fan of 500px.com and love that they have a lot of tutorials and interviews with photographers to discuss technique and how they got started, things they learned, what they look for when shooting. I highly suggest taking a look at https://iso.500px.com/category/craft/tutorials/