Hidden World

I’m really happy with the way this image turned out, and it’s nearly exactly what I pre-visualized. Creating this image took me on a bit of an adventure and doubled as a fantastic learning experience. Read on!

Not all plant surfaces are created equal – some plants allow water to “bead” very beautifully, while others just become wet and slick. I hadn’t found a good reference for this quality, so I decided to investigate at a local greenhouse and experiment to find some of the best plants for this purpose.

The staff at the greenhouse were somewhat perplexed by my request. I asked if I could walk around and spray their plants to see which ones had the beading characteristics I was looking for, and after some discussion they allowed me to conduct my “research”. Many of the grasses were suitable, with the specific variety used in this image being Blue Fescue. With my bead-producing plants and some flowers to put in behind, I set to work.

This image has four major components:
– Photographed in a large bowl, filled to the rim with water.
– Submerged underneath the water is a “third hand” tool that has two alligator clips. The blade of grass is held in place under water with each clip, and positioned perfectly to allow the grass to rise above the water in a gentle arc.
– The above water grass is sprayed with a fine misting spray bottle and large droplets begin to form on the surface.
– A flower is placed behind and half-submerged with another variation of a “third hand” tool, one with a longer reach and gentle tweezer-like grip.

The camera angle is critical, as is the position and angle of the flash. This required a fair amount of trial-and-error, and when the right combination was found I set to work shooting roughly one hundred frames. I shoot these kind of shots entirely hand-held and use the large amount of frames for focus-stacking purposes. In this case I only used 15 of the frames, but I drastically overshoot because I have no way of determining if I have all of the necessary pieces (one of the challenges of shooting handheld).

click image for larger version
Behind The Scenes:
Here’s a glimpse into the final setup used to create this image. A few hours of trial and error were required to arrive at this configuration; while the images taken along the way were promising, I knew I still needed to investigate further.
Getting the water to exactly the right height was tricky, requiring the level to be raised after everything else was in place by pouring more water into the bowl.