Bob Belas Photography Blog

Reflecting upon refraction

Drop Refraction 2, color

Reflecting upon refraction

As you may know, Spring has yet to fully embrace us in Maryland, with snow or flurries still a common occurrence.  With wet, cold weather upon us, I decided to stay warm and dry, and spent a few hours in my indoor studio exploring macrophotography of water drops and the refractions they create.

While they look simple, getting decent images that had nice looking, in focus drops (with refracted objects) took much more effort than I initially assumed. The setup is simple: horizontal glass plate, a couple of LED lights, some flowers, and a macro lens. What could go wrong, right? Initially, I thought a spray bottle aimed at the glass plate on which the droplets were to land would produce nice, round drops, but this didn't work for me. I ended up placing drops of varying volumes on the glass one-by-one until I was satisfied with the shape and pattern of the drops. I have to say that getting a circular drop was challenging. Rain-X helped a lot in producing a hydrophobic film on the glass and thereby forcing the drops to be circular... most of the time. In practice, a steady hand, with careful application of the drop to the surface, worked best.

Part of the beauty of macrophotography of drops is getting all the refracted image and drop in focus, while leaving the background blurred. I used f/5.6, which produced creamy bokeh, but left too much of the refraction out of focus, especially when my subject droplets varied greatly in their size and volume. This problem was solved by using a macro rail, taking a series of photos, and stacking them with appropriate software.

I hope you enjoy this image, and found some use in my description of how it was made.

Please leave your comments, opinions, and suggestions.

Best wishes,


Hi! I'm a retired university professor,  an avid photographer, musician, orchid grower, and a pretty good fisherman.

Read More

Send email: