Creative project Earth splash
Creative photographer Mark Hunter shows you how to produce a striking image with not a great deal of effort and quite a bit of fun
Look at the world in a whole new way with this
planetary abstract image. Using a crystal ball, water and flashguns, paired with an entry-level DSLR and a kit lens, you can create your own Earth splash. A remote or wireless shutter release also allows you to move around and concentrate on throwing the water, rather than reaching for the camera. As you will be throwing water around, a towel and a lens hood are useful tools to protect your camera from splash damage and to prevent drop marks from obscuring your images. As added protection, clingfilm on your flashgun provides moulded waterproofing so you can still move the light and access all screens and dials.
We moved the flashgun off-centre to create a natural gradient from left to right, running light to dark, across the background. The resulting image was slightly underexposed, but as it was shot in raw it could be fixed later in Photoshop.
There are so many ways to vary this once you have nailed the process. For example, we’ve added a gradient, but you could put gels on your flash, or use more than one flash with different-colour gels. And if the world is not enough for you, how about using the Moon or other planets? Or what about an eye, an apple or a football? The spherical possibilities are endless… www.markahunter.com
Get your props in place. We rested our crystal ball on the neck of a bottle, placed on a small table, with a small paddling pool below to collect the water. Don’t put your camera too close to the ball: the water ahead of and after the splash can make the shot. Set your camera to expose the white background uniformly. We used 1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 100 and set the flash to 1/128 power.
Try to make sure the camera only sees what the flashgun lights up. Stop it seeing ambient light by taking test shots of your static setup at 1/160 sec and ISO 100, without using the flash, and adjusting your aperture until the image is dark.
Pre-focus to the midpoint of the crystal ball, then switch to manual focus to lock the settings. To take the shot, simply throw, click, refill, repeat. Once you get the hang of it, you shouldn’t need to check the camera too often – just watch the front of your lens for stray splashes! Try hanging some coloured materials or towels around the set, too.
Open the image in Lightroom. If your image is under-exposed like ours, lift the exposure by one and a half stops, lift the white point and drop the blacks. Under Lens Corrections, tick ‘Enable Profile Corrections’ and ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’. Crop the image to frame the sphere in the centre and to lose out-of-focus water.
Take the image to Photoshop to remove the bottle neck and remove out-of-focus splashes. Make a copy of the layer (Ctrl/Cmd+J); make a selection of the bottle neck, then use a brush with 100% hardness, opacity and flow to paint over the bottle with a colour sampled from near the selection. (Alt-click on a colour to sample it.)
Shoot a globe or find a stock image of the Earth. Put this on a separate layer below the crystal ball layer. Reduce the crystal ball layer’s Opacity. On the Earth layer press Ctrl/ Cmd+T then reposition the Earth within the crystal ball. Return the crystal ball’s Opacity to 100% and set its Blend Mode to Difference. Adjust the Earth opacity to blend it.