YPS Macro - Ravishing Refractions - A Teaching session by Prema Kakade - How did it go

Ravishing Refractions – How Did it Go!

Since last year, photography enthusiasts have been restricted in avenues for photography. No photography outing arranged by the club, no company to go out and shoot pictures, no wildlife safaris, and no parks to visit, due to the restrictions posed by the ongoing scare of Covid-19 pandemic. This has allowed many of our members to explore avenues within their reach, including indoor photography, macro photography in and around their house, glassware, water droplets, and such. During this time, a session on ‘oil on water photography’ came as a much-needed session to open another path for enthusiastic members.

The ‘YPS Saturday Meet’ webinar session for YPS members, held on 10th July 2021, titled ‘Ravishing Refractions’, taken by YPS Life Member and Joint Secretary Ms Prema Kakade, EFIAP, EFIP, cMoL, A.CPE, GPA.PESGSPC, Hon PESGSPC, Hon CPE, was very informative and inspiring.

After an introduction by session moderator and YPS Life Member Mr Srinath Narayan, Ms Prema thanked YPS President Mr H Satish for taking her through photography to reach higher levels and YPS Vice President and Lead of the YPS Macro Group Mr S Chandrashekar, for encouraging her to take this session.

In the first part, Prema introduced the viewers to different forms of refraction photography and showed her works in these forms:

1) Glassware photography: There are two types in this: 1) Dark field photography and 2) Bright field photography. While the dark field is about reflection and not refraction, in the bright field photography done using a flashlight, refraction of light in the water filled inside the glassware causes interesting patterns. She showed through her beautifully created pictures on how, by arranging the background suitably, very attractive pictures can be made. By keeping the subject on a reflective surface, both reflection and refraction of light could be exploited to create even more interesting pictures.

2) Soap bubble photography: A short lived soap bubble shows colourful patterns while light passes through it. A soap bubble could be created with soap water and a straw or the toy sold for kids. Just create a few bubbles and hold a big enough one of them in a bowl. This can be used for shooting.  It was nice to see the ‘earth from space’ or celestial type images from this setup.

3) Dewdrop photography: showing a flower or some interesting object reflected inside the dewdrop formed on a blade of grass could be very artistic.  Prema showed the setup used to take that picture. Her picture of a few dewdrops reflecting the red Gerbera flower kept behind, elicited good discussion among the participants on how to get a good shape of water drop, lighting, and setup. There is no need for a flashlight, but light should be thrown on the flower to make it bright and reflect well in the water/dew drop. Also, the grass blade and water drops must be perfectly in parallel to the camera plane. Distance between the object (flower) and the water drops need to be appropriate to get a good reflection. By adding a few drops of glycerin into water and using a syringe to place the water drops on the grass blade, ‘dew drops’ can be created indoors.

4) Oil on water photography: This again uses the refraction characteristic of light when it passes through a liquid medium such as water and oil. This topic was the focus of the day and Prema spent the rest of the time elaborating on this.

Outdoor Setup

Prema showed the setup used for oil on water photography done outdoors.  The setup comprised a clear glass container, a tripod, camera and macro lens, two plastic tumblers, a colourful shirt, and some cooking oil. Place the tumblers on the ground one apart from the other, place the glass bowl on them, keep the colourful shirt (or any such colourful background) on the ground right beneath the glass bowl such that we can see the background through the glass, when viewed from top. Place the tripod carefully right above this setup. Fix the camera firmly to the tripod and adjust it such that the camera can see all the way till the background at 90 degrees angle. Now fill the glass bowl with some water up to a depth of an inch and drop a bit of oil on the water. Oil starts floating, forming different globules and patterns showing the background colours.

Shot during the day between 12:00–13:00 hrs while the sun is right atop our head, this outdoor set up causes the sunlight to pass through the top layer of oil, then water and reach the background. On this path, light gets refracted in the layer of oil and because of the background, shows very interesting patterns. It is important to focus on the oil and not on the background, such that the background is blurred and only the pattern created in the oil is captured by the camera. Prema mentioned that she usually sets the aperture to f/11.0.

Different pictures taken by Prema with this setup amused the viewers. The ones taken with a mix of oil and coloured nail polish and clear nail polish, were really artistic! Though it is quite tiring due to the scorching sun and the need to stand looking through the camera, the outcome could make one forget all that and enjoy the images.

Indoor Setup

Prema then showed the indoor setup.  While the remaining setup remains the same, the source of light (a LED torch or a focus light) is kept beneath the glass container only to illuminate the background. Due to the bright light thrown only on the background and no other light in the room, this setup gives more colourful pictures of the oil droplets and flow patterns. For the 70-180 mm zoom lens used by Prema, she took pictures from 6-8 inches above the bowl, focusing on the oil layer. She informed that the pictures are usually taken at f/11.0, ISO 400 and in Aperture priority mode.

The pictures she had taken from this setup were amazing and enthralled the viewers. Different combinations used  such as a wedding card kept as the background, a flower kept in the background and shot at an angle instead of 90 degrees, were all very inspiring.

Viewers couldn’t miss the apt selection of the frames for the pictures shown by Prema. Her background in fine arts and its influence in presenting each of her works to viewers aesthetically, was evident during the session. Also, the works gave viewers an insight into how passionate she is about photography and how much effort she has put to create many beautiful pictures in this genre.

Since the setup doesn’t need much investment or going out, it is doable for anyone interested even during the lockdown time. Hence it was not a surprise that the audience took an active part during the session with a lot of questions and sharing of ideas, well accommodated by Prema, thus making it a very lively and useful session for all who attended it.

-V Madhusudana D Rao, AFIAP, cMoL