The refraction of light is one of the most commonly observed phenomena and is a perennial favourite of photographers. While talk of bending light waves and the effects they produce may sound like complicated work, it’s actually a rather simple photography effect you can recreate anywhere.
Find out below how to capture the refraction of light using a glass of water and a cool background!
In this tutorial we’re going to use the refractive properties of glass and water to make a striking arty abstract. The chances are you witness this effect every day, and it can be clearly seen by simply looking through a glass of water.
But we’re going to take it one step further and control the effect for creative results.ding light
Using a background of diagonal black and white stripes, we’ll use the distorting properties of water and glass to bend, twist, rotate and skew the lines to form intriguing abstract shapes.
This is a relatively easy technique to get to grips with. Simply fill a glass container with water and look through it – you’ll instantly see the distorting effects of refraction in action.
Layer several glasses in front of one another and you’ll add layers of distortion to the overall effect.
The lighting is straightforward, and a regular camera mounted flashgun bounced off the ceiling will be more than adequate. You don’t need any fancy equipment or complicated camera techniques to achieve amazing results.
A simple table top is all you’ll need. So let’s get started and see how it’s done…
How to photograph the refraction of light
For this project you’ll need to make a simple background. We’ve created a diagonal black and white stripe in Photoshop and printed it out on a regular office laser printer. It doesn’t need to be too fancy. It’s worth experimenting with different designs, or you could even introduce some colour.
Perfect your settings
Position super-clean drinking glasses in front of the backdrop, and fill them with water to varying levels. Use a small aperture such as f/16 to maximise the depth of field and ensure everything’s sharp. Use a tripod, as small changes in camera angle will affect how the glass and water refracts the pattern.
Prepare the lighting
Daylight can work perfectly, but we’ll be using a flashgun here as we’re shooting in lowlight conditions. Ideally you want to avoid any unsightly reflections on the glass – you can easily achieve this by bouncing the light off the ceiling. To do that, simply point the flashgun in the up position.
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