If you look at two macro photographs of the same flower, leaf, or spider web and the only difference is that one has a dew drop on it and the other doesn't, the dew drop photo will be favored every time. That small bit of water adds so much to an image between light and reflection that it always draws the eye in to examine it a bit closer. It seems like photographers who capture these images are out there after every rainstorm waiting for the perfect light and drops to complete their nature image. Are they really wearing their galoshes and trekking through mud to find the right flower sprinkled in dew? Some might be, but I assure you, many are not. So, what's the trick up their photo-sleeve? Read on.
Besides finding the right lighting, finding perfectly placed dew drops can be like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Unless you want to head out after every rainstorm or deep into the fog, it's easier to do what the pros do. Add your own water! Like actresses fake their own tears, photographers fake their own dew. That perfectly placed drop on a leaf or web is not by happenchance, but by spray bottle.
What's more important than finding the dew is finding the rest of the photo. The subjects can be varied: a flower, leaf, spider web, tree bark, grass, or even a ladybug's shell! First and foremost, they are your goal, unless you are completely zooming in on the drop itself. Find the subject, choose the lighting, perspective, composition, all while considering the dew drop's placement. How will the light strike it? What reflections will occur from which angles?
Creating Your Own Rain and Dew Drops
The moment I mentioned that most dew drops captured by pros are created, you likely put two and two together and figured out that a simple spray bottle is the trick. This is not rocket science, but it is a trick of the trade that people often forget. When was the last time you left your house with camera, tripod, filters and a spray bottle in hand? Getting in the habit of keeping a spray bottle and some water on hand will help when you're out there. I can imagine how many times a photographer went to photograph a flower and thought, man, this would be so much better with a dew drop. Maybe not every time, but often enough. Be prepared.
Enhancing the Spray Drops
If you play enough with water, you know that drops come in all sizes. So, how do you get those big drops to form? A trick of the trade is to add glycerine or organic dish soap to your mix. Kind of cool, huh? Glycerin makes the water particles stick together, thereby creating bigger drops. Play with different amounts and dilutions until you get a knack of what works for the images you want. Think of it as your own science experiment.
Not Just for Nature
Drops of water aren't just in nature. Where else might you want to create "fake drops"? Condensation on bottles and glasses. Raindrops on a car's hood. A window. Keep an eye out for drop-opportunities! They're out there more than you might realize and can make for some great photography.
A Word About Macro Photography
In order to create these captivating images, an understanding of macro photography is in order. Your DSLR has a setting for it, usually the flower icon. But, there's much more to setting it on Flower mode. I have other posts on perfecting macro photography, but for the purposes here, I'll touch on three tips that are dew drop related.
- Lighting can have a huge impact on the reflection and "response" from your dew drop. Try different angles and see how the subject and drop are best represented. Does the drop create a reflection? Is it transparent?
- Macro means close up, right? Well, when you're that close to a subject, you want it to be beautiful. Find the flower or feather or whatever that is flawless so that the emphasis is on the dew drop and its impact on your subject. A brown spot on a petal can be a big enough distraction from a perfect image.
- Don’t forget the rule of thirds. Unless the subject is meant to take up the whole frame, which often happens in macro photography, keep your subject to the left, right, top or bottom third of your frame. If the subject does take up the whole frame, then see about having the dew drop on the left, right, top or bottom thirds of the frame. Think each shot through as part of your composition.
Get Out the Door
Morning and evening light, as almost always, are when you want to head out the door. Pack a spray bottle filled with glycerin water (not for drinking, mind you!), and notice the impact it has on your images! Be sure to comment here and let me know how it goes.
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