A glass full of water makes for some great photography illusions

Oct 20, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

A glass full of water makes for some great photography illusions

Oct 20, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Optical illusions using glass and water have always been popular with photography. Whether it’s reflections of objects on top of each other or the world seen through a water droplet, it’s a fascinating subject. So, it’s no wonder that so many photographers want to give it a try.

One such photographer is Brazilian born Alexandre Watanabe, also known as EvilWata Imagery. In a pair of images recently posted to Facebook, we see the technique performed beautifully. The images are titled Complementary Refraction, and it really shows off just how effective it can be. We got in touch with Alexandre to get some insight into the process.

In speaking with Alexandre, we wanted to find out a little about his motivation for these images, and why he set out to create them.

I have done something similiar before with a black and white background and refraction, but the same composition. For this particular shot, I just wanted it to have colors, and to be a more pleasant image.

I chose blue and yellow (orange), which are complementary colors of each other, and the composition was to show symmetry too.

The blue and orange do go very well together, as does the red and green of the second image.

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Aside from the obvious artistic benefits of such techniques, refractions are a great technical exercise, too. They teach us about how light travels through various substances. Understanding this helps us to deal with refraction and reflection issues that may come outside of the studio, too.

Alexandre told DIYP about the equipment he used for these images.

The gear used was a Nikon D5100 and 50mm 1.8 lens. For the lighting I used a Nikon SB-800.This was due to its smaller size compared to the SB-910. Since it’s smaller, the bright spot would be smaller too, creating the natural vignette. I also zoomed the speedlight head all way to 105mm, which concentrates the light more on a single spot.

As you can see, Alexandre used very modest equipment. This is one of the reasons why it’s such a great technical exercise. The principles really aren’t gear dependent at all. Anybody can give it a go.

Some people thought that the glass was empty, but no, it’s filled with water, that’s why it refracts the background like that.

The background was just colored plastic (not gels), in front of a diffusion panel (a frame with tracing paper), just like showed on the light diagram. To hold the colored plastic I just used paper clips.

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It’s funny how some of the simplest setups can produce the most outstanding work. Sometimes, a ton of gear and elaborate setups actually hold us back. They stop us from exploring the possibilities and ultimately limit our thinking. Of course, it’s nice having a lot of gear to play with, but using limited equipment can really push us and our work.

The post processing was also fairly simple and straightforward.

The photos are pretty much SOOC. The only post-process made was crop a little of the bottom (the edge of the glass which was underneath the main subject), RAW conversion and some dust removal.

To minimize my work after the shot, I’ve cleaned the glasses the best that I could. This prevents fingerprints from showing and another things that would make the post process a pain. But, even though I did that, some dust falls over the glass surface.

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I sure know how that is. Dust is my nemesis. I do a lot of animal photography on black reflective surfaces. The amount of dust and other bits in the air that they collect just during even a short session is unreal. Dust cleanup in post is probably the longest task in the whole process.

Thank you your time and sharing with us, Alexandre. We look forward to seeing more of your experiments with refraction and reflection in the future.

You can find out more about Alexandre and follow his work on Facebook, Instagram and 500px, or reach out to him through Twitter.

Have you used refraction as a topic for your photography? How did it turn out for you? Has Alexandre’s project given you some ideas to try for the future? Let us know, and show off some of your images in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “A glass full of water makes for some great photography illusions”

  1. Alexandre Watanabe Avatar
    Alexandre Watanabe

    Thank you John Alfred for posting here, really glad that you liked it, and hope it helps someone here too :D

  2. Aankhen Avatar
    Aankhen

    That’s amazing!

    1. Alexandre Watanabe Avatar
      Alexandre Watanabe

      Thank you Aankhen :D

  3. Jayne Avatar
    Jayne

    What kind of surface is the glass sitting on?

    1. Alexandre Watanabe Avatar
      Alexandre Watanabe

      A clear piece of glass