Lesson Learned: This is not an easy shot

Icicle dsc_2773

Every winter, I’ve seen and admired those beautiful dripping icicle shots, so yesterday, with freezing rain falling all around us, I thought, why not?  It had to be a simple matter of selecting an interesting, drippy icicle, aiming a fast lens, shooting in continuous mode at a fast shutter speed, and one of those clicks would capture the perfect droplet, suspended crisply as it waved goodbye to it’s Mom.  Right?

Not quite.  Even at my D90’s fast continuous mode, I was getting plenty of shots of the pre-release portion of the drip.  But because the drop, once it breaks free, evidently leaves the icicle at the speed of light (!), it was difficult to catch within the frame.  It was also hard to get that darn drop really sharp.  I wish this one was a bit sharper.

The set up was as follows:  Nikon D90 at aperture of f1.8 and 1/500s, iso 200, using a Nikon 35mm prime.  I was shooting through an open window and the icicles were about 3 feet away.  In order to hold the camera closer to the subject, I used Live View and held the camera at arm’s length.  Or I should say, at neck strap length.  I focused at the bottom tip of a dripping icicle, counted the drip frequency (1 one thousand, 2 one thousand…), and fired on high continuous shooting mode.

I repeated the firing sequence many times, and was all too often disappointed that I was not catching the drop just below the icicle.  Frequently, the drop was still attached or dropped so quickly that it was out of the frame or too close to the bottom to be usable.  Eventually I got this one (and a few others).  In all, I squeezed off about 100 shots.

I shared this as a daily post on my SmugMug-hosted photo site, and received quite a bit of feedback.  Many expressed similar frustration, having tried to make an icicle image themselves.  One great recommendation was made to hold the tip of a pencil where the drops were falling and manually focus on that spot.  Brilliant!  And I would add one more ingredient: patience.

In post-production, I cropped, tweaked the contrast, sharpened, and added the frame.

But here it is, and I will never underestimate the effort required to make a successful image of a drop of water again!            Posted by Ed

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About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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1 Response to Lesson Learned: This is not an easy shot

  1. 2guysphoto says:

    Great shot, Ed. Nice and sharp. I’ve been wondering about the smaller drip between the icicle and the main droplet. It’s cool that you captured it, but I wonder if the image might be stronger with that cloned out? I think you’ve also hit upon the key topic of patience in photography and the work required to “make” the image… not to simply “take” it.


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