Water Droplet Magic: A Photography Project During the Pandemic

Bob Hills

As an avid photographer, COVID-19 has had an impact on many genres of photography that I enjoy. For example, street photography. It was not uncommon for me to go to downtown Tucson and take images of buildings, people, traffic, and other interesting things that I come across. COVID-19 abruptly ended those trips. I also enjoy landscape photography and astrophotography, which are much more isolated from crowds. However, there is only so much you can do safely by yourself and staying close to home—then add on the heat of our past summer. With that as background, I decided to pursue a few photography projects in my home office/studio. The one I am highlighting today had been on my wish list of things to do for several years. Many folks have done this, but my personal motivation came from a professional photographer and Nikon Ambassador—his abstract work using the following technique was stunning.

The project I took on fundamentally comes down to shooting subjects through water drops on a flat plate of glass. By placing a subject below the glass with the water drops, they appear in the water drops as though they were tiny glass lenses. Technically, this is known as refraction of light through the water drops. After my first few experimental shots, I discovered a fascinating world of creativity which included choosing the subject, a background (behind the subject), and placing water drops in various configurations on the glass. Before long, I had built a ‘flexible and stable shooting platform’ that let me place my camera over the two independently adjustable glass shelves which allowed me to light and photograph the water drops refracting the subjects and the backgrounds. Unlike other photography where the subject exists in nature and you try to compose the best image of it, you can create your own image from scratch much like a painter starts with a blank canvas.

In all, I produced over 100 images that I am happy to put on display. A broader selection of those images can be seen on my website at www.bobhillsphoto.com.

After four months of shooting water drops, I decided it was time to move onto another project. However, I continue to think of more ideas on what and how to photograph these types of images. I will likely return to shoot more in the future.