Natural circles – The Dairy Crown

One of the aspect of photography we specialise in is Still Life imagery.  In the world of product commercial photography it is perhaps the least utilise genre and therefore tends to be something we do in ‘spare time’ in the studio or for competition shoots.  Why do we continue to shoot this genre when commercial need is low, will simply because it’s fun and always produces some interesting results.  Here Ian explains how we captured some Dairy Crowns – messy, at times frustrating but great fun with minimal equipment needed and a unique result every time.

There are many things in this world that happen far too fast for us to see clearly.  Unless we know to look for these phenomena, they simply just pass us by. However, as photographers we have the amazing action-stopping power of flash photography to freeze time. 

Who could have imagined that you can capture the natural circular beauty of using something as simple as a drop of milk falling onto a surface.

At one time, the use of action stopping flashes required expensive high end equipment.  However, this technology is now easily within the reach of every photographer using readily available budget speed lights from manufacturers such as Godox, Neewer and Yongnuo.  Of course, higher-end equipment can be used but these lights are perfectly adequate.

By design speedlights, when used on low power produce incredibly short duration pulses of light that are as short as 1/10,000 of a second.  These short durations along with standard flash camera shutter speeds of only 1/200 second can freeze the fastest of motion. As long as there are low ambient light levels the only light lighting your splash will be from the flash.

So if you would like to have a try, here’s the recipe for you to cook up your very own Dairy Crown images:

  1. Take your camera fitted with a macro lens and mount it on a tripod. 
  2. Place your speed light off to one side and set to low power.
  3. Use a stand to hold your ‘pipette’ (you can simply use a straw).
  4. Use an object placed upon the ‘drop site’ to focus the shot, then switch to manual focus mode.
  5. Dip the end of the straw into a small container of liquid and place your finger over the top of the straw. When you release your finger the liquid drops out.
    Manually press shutter.
  6. Wipe the surface clean & repeat.

Yes, you will have a lot of missed splashes. However, the rewarding part is that you will also be able to capture some amazing shapes as the splashes form and then collapse.

In these examples I used milk, but there are all sorts of different liquids that you can try such as cream, emulsion paint.

Dairy crown

Once you get the hang of the timing, there are many other possibilities that you can investigate; such as using a reflective base such as a mirror or a sheet of plexiglass to produce a mirror-like reflection.  You could also add food colouring to the surface to add colour to the circular splashes.  The end result is will always be unique as no splash is ever formed the same.

Lactose butterfly

This article can be viewed in the November/December 2021 Cameracraft magazine, which is produced in association with The Guild of Photographers.