Liquid Art from Markus Reugels:
How to capture unseen
How did you get interested in, and why did you decide to dedicate yourself to photography?
I am a lawyer, and being an undergraduate at university I used to work as a designer at the polygraphy. Photography was my hobby at first. After I got my diploma, I worked as a lawyer for three and a half years. In 2008 I quit my job to become a freelance photographer.
It wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The issue is that there is no place where they can teach you to be a photographer: actually, you can learn some theory, but nobody tells you about the commercial side of the profession. But art photography differs from commercial one a lot. That is why I had to learn from my own experience, which was not an easy one, as I got in all possible and invented traps, but I am grateful to that experience from scratch and to the people I met along the way and helped me a lot.
My name is Markus Reugels, I´m 34 years old and I live in a little Village near Schweinfurt/Germany.
I bought my first camera 4 years ago. Basically I wanted to take good Family pictures, but when i understood the Camera settings, i then wanted to explore one Genre, Macro and High-speed imaging.
Everything I know about photography is self-thought.
I read a lot online and bought books about lighting and so on. When I have fun with something, I take the time to learn it. Most of the things must be tested with “trial and error” but I think this is the way to really improve your skills and learn why things work or don’t work.
Another point is that I focus on one genre, I make mainly macros and not every genre. I want to manage one genre very good and not many half-hearted. We are all familiar with the phrase, “A Jack of many trades is a Master of none.”
I’ve been shootingthese drops for 3 years, and I haven’t lost the fire for this passion at all. There are so many things you can make with water.
Shot them with a Pellet, bend it with an air stream, work with fountains, soap bubbles, smoke, the combinations are endless and only limited by the imagination.
I like to look at little things we don´t consider in our lives. With Photography it´s possible to capture such subjects in a single photo. Humans must see the World more with the “Childs eyes” and photography can help to show such moments.
At the Beginning I made my Water drops with a medicine dropper, a remote trigger in one hand and a cup in the other hand. With the cup I catch the falling drops, so that the water surface in the tray is very still (this is necessary to get a reflection, with a low Camera angle). I pull the cup out of the way and let 2-3 drops fall into the tray, when the first drop collide into the water I press the Trigger. With this technique I have 1 keeper out of 10 (in good times).
But with time, I want more control over the process. This was only possible with a light barrier. Now I can take more care about the light and the Color combination. For me this is the most important thing. When you have a great shape with poor light, It means nothing. A poor shape in brilliant light is much better. It was the first step in the right direction.
Now, I adjust all parameters exactly with a microprocessor, to have the most possible control over the water. This was the key to realize such complex images. In some of my pictures I synchronize 3 different colored drops with an air rifle, or air stream.
Normally I start every series with a picture in my head. But this is very rare to reach. The shapes cannot be calculated so i must take what i get. With lots of patience, i know in which way i must adjust the settings to influence the shapes.
The only thing you can control is the light and the Colors.
To bring color into the picture is very easy. To bring color into the splash, I dyed the drop water with food-color or ink. The background or water surface is colored with the light, here I use gels on the flashes.
Let me I explain you the dynamic of the basic “Drop on Drop” technique.
It works with 2 drops. The First drop falls into the Water and forms a Crater, then a Crown and finally the Pillar . The second drop must be timed that it lands on the Pillar and with the collision it forms the shapes we like. Mushrooms, hats or flying discs. When the distance between the first and the second drop gets bigger, the shapes goes into flying disc. When the Distance gets lower, the shapes turns more into hats. The middle Drop speed is about 10 drops per second (here are the Mushrooms).
With 15 drops per second comes the flying shapes and with 6 drops per second the hats.
Normally I thicken my water with Guargum to increase the viscosity . I want a similar Viscosity as Milk or Cream. This helps to make smoother shapes and they hold longer together before they collapse. Sometimes I use only Milk , this is the best fluid for the droplets, you can bring Color into the Splash without coloring the Water, try only gels on the flash and the Milk will be colored.
I use a Sony @77 with a Minolta 100 f2.8 Macro lens.
As Flashes, I use only the old Vivitar 285 with a little modification to set the Power lower than 1/16. Aperture around f/16 is used. This is the best compromise between sharpness and diffraction blur. The Shutter speed is not important in Highspeed Photography, the Action is frozen by the fast flash. The Flashes have a flash duration faster than 1/20000 at low power settings.
No Camera has a shutter fast as the Flashes. I choose a Shutter Speed of 1/160 , but only for the wireless trigger. It work best with these settings!
Few more examples of the shots I did are below.