Droplet Sequence

To find out what a water droplet does when it splashes I have taken 42 images of water droplets.

The first image is 85 milliseconds after triggering an IR beam, each subsequent image is 5 milliseconds later. This sequence covers 210 milliseconds during the life of a water droplet.

Using this information allows me to decide what images give the best composition and at what time they occur.

This sequence was taken with a water bottle suspended above the work area and a narrow tube from the underside of the bottle was clamped above a tray containing diluted milk. Directly below the tube was a IR trigger system connected to a time delay system which triggers the camera and two flashguns after the required delay. The pink tone on the milk is from a sheet of coloured paper positioned behind the tray of milk, one flashgun illuminated the background and the second was directed at the droplet.

All of the images were taken at 1/250 second @ f16 iso 100 with a 100mm macro lens on a tripod mounted Canon 40D. In order to freeze the droplets both flash guns were set to 1/128th of full power which gives a flash duration of approximately 1/35,000 of a second.

An AVI animation of the 42 frames (equivalent of 210 frames per second video) – note file is 1.8Mb

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26 Responses to Droplet Sequence

  1. I was thinking about this solenoid valve (http://www.solenoid-valve.world/by-material/brass-solenoid-valve/Brass-solenoid-valve-22 ) with a 12 volts coil to release water drops with a simple push button to trigger the solenoid. I have a control box ( http://hiviz.com/kits/instructions/mt2-opman.htm) bought a couple of years ago , well more like 5 , that I have always triggered with a pipet but its wildly hit and miss re drop sizes.
    Is the 1/8 port to large?
    Do I need to reduce it with smaller orifice fitting ?
    I am intending to mount a reservoir above the valve connected by a tube with the valve above my trigger beam or maybe a outlet pipe above the beam from the valve ?
    any suggestions welcomed
    regards alistair

    • photosbykev says:

      The valve looks reasonable, I use the Shako PU220AR valve. I tend to use valves with a 1/4″ BSP and fit them with a 1/8″ barbed tube nozzle with an outlet around 1.5mm, I don’t put any tubing below the valve. Fitting a simple tank above the solenoid will give you a good head of water to make the valve operate reliably, ideally you should make the tank a mariotte syphon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariotte%27s_bottle so the head of water remains constant as the bottle empties.

  2. Bill Siegler says:

    Just discovered your site Kev and I love it! I’m just beginning to dabble in water drops and am doing everything manually. I’m curious how do you time the ms between drops? Is this your timing system measured against the photo or?

  3. Christine Oatley says:

    Hi Kev,
    Do you by chance teach photography, especially water drop?
    Your photography is wonderful, I would like to be just half as good!

    Warm regards


  4. Robert Wallace says:

    Please can you help with some water drops, I just cannot get the two drops to collide
    I have a stop shot plus other bits and pieces, height is from the water level is 30″ up to
    the valve.
    My other setting are pulse twenty ms -toff 95 and number 2 trigger at 290ms al the work is done in a darkened room
    I wonder if offer some hints and tips as where I am going wrong.
    Big Boab

    • photosbykev says:

      I usually start with 1 droplet and found out the time it takes to reach to top of the water surface. What you want to get is the second droplet into this position when the 1st droplet rises into a column which is approx 85-90ms after the 1st droplet just touches the water. So the timing between droplets is always around 85-90ms. Also make sure the sensor is at least 125-150mm below the solenoid.


    • Robert McGregor says:

      Kev. many thanks that made some improvements, Alas can you help with the last hurdle I get as far as colliding with both drops in the frame, my next click
      and the drops disappear even working in 1/2 ms and 1 us. its a case of to near and case to far

      Please Oblige

      • photosbykev says:

        I suspect you are triggering the camera with the Cognisys which is then triggering the flash? If this is the case then that’s the problem, there is a fairly small but very significant timing variation if the Stopshot is triggering the camera which then triggers the flash. The ideal way and most accurate is to trigger the flashes with the Stopshot and either manually trigger the camera or use one of the Cognisys triggers to fire the shutter BUT the Cognisys has to directly fire the flash for the most precision. You might also be using a wireless flash trigger, again the most accurate method is to use a wired system to trigger the flashguns. 1 millisecond accuracy is more than good enough for water droplet applications


        • Robert McGregor says:

          I am using the camera in bulb in a darkened room and after clicking the camera the aperture opens I click the up button on stop shot which fires the flashguns plus all guns are wired up and I never use wireless

          • photosbykev says:

            Hi Robert,

            with your setup you should literally be able to walk the 2nd droplet into the column of the 1st droplet by reducing the time delay between the droplets one millisecond at a time or by increasing the delay before firing the the guns. By reducing the time delay between droplets you should see the 1st droplet column remain at the same height and the 2nd droplet get closer to the droplet column. By delaying the flash you should see the 1st droplet column increase in height to reach up towards the 2nd droplet, at some point this option will fail because the 1st droplet column will just collapse.


  5. bobby mac says:

    Kev I posted a question on the 16th of this month and I thought it funny when there was to answer and found out why. One must login but alas I cannot find how to register and I so much like your web site to be thee the best.So can you tell how to register
    Mr R McGregor

  6. bobby mac says:

    Hi Kev, I am amazed at the water drops that you take,in fact I have your web site in my favorites just to help me. I purchased a stop shop and have been practising water I am getting results.But want to go a step up are there any tips you can offer to improve my water drops,I know there are dozens and dozens but even a couple of tips & hint would be great please bear in mind I only have one stop shop.
    R McGregor .
    PS please keep up your web site as a great many of are following it

  7. Bob says:

    How far are the drops falling to the ir sensor and after the sensor?
    I’ve been trying this using basic equipment(nothing flash like yours!)
    Would just like a rough guide to the setup.
    Some of your shots are amazing.

    • photosbykev says:


      I normally place the sensor about 5cm below the nozzle and the total drop height is about 60cm into 3-4cm of water. To get the collisions you need to get a spacing between droplets of approximately 100mS i.e. 10 droplets per second. The time from a droplet hitting the surface to rebounding into a column is about 100mS


  8. Pingback: Photo-Trigger! | | PhotosbyKevPhotosbyKev

  9. Zimmer Heinz says:

    whear I can buy a magnet valve ?
    H. Zimmer Germany

  10. Another question, If the shots are of different drops how long did you wait between drops to allow the surface to calm down?


  11. Are those shots ALL of the same drop? If so did you use the flash in strobe mode or did you trigger the camera and flash multiple times?


  12. Ron Mooij says:

    Very interesting. Am experimenting with photographing water drops and splashes and this help me understand what is happening

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