Australian photographer Craig Loechel went from blindly experimenting with a water drop kit for the first time to mastering the art of macro liquid photography.
The Unpredictable Nature of Liquid Art Photography
Loechel has been “a serious photographer” for over 13 years but says he had a strong interest in art from an early age. He shoots a wide variety of subject matter, but macro and extreme macro particularly stand out as his favorite genres.
In 2016, his friend David offered to lend him a water drop kit knowing Loechel’s love for experimenting and trying out new things in photography. Without any prior research, it took Loechel several days to work out how to get basic water drop collisions.
“It was quite a struggle,” Loechel tells PetaPixel. But, after his first collision image, he was hooked. First, he started experimenting with different lighting setups and slowly learned how to do more advanced formations.
“The biggest attraction to me about making liquid art is its technical nature,” Loechel explains. “Getting an image that makes you go wow when you see it in the back of the camera is very satisfying to me.”
“There are a lot of things involved that need to be right for that to happen and then there is often something that will come out of nowhere and shock you, this is the unpredictable nature of playing with liquids that I also find alluring,” he adds.
Mastering the Setup for a Succesful Droplet Collision
For many, the biggest challenge in a liquid art shoot is finding the correct settings, Loechel says. He has seen some photographers write their settings down but doing so is not the right approach for his photography.
“There are many factors that affect this. Liquid viscosity and temperature can never be exactly the same and there are so many other variables,” he explains. “The best thing to do is learn your controller’s functions and learn how water droplets are formed. A good start is YouTube slow-motion videos.”
This is also how Loechel began himself. He watched many slow-motion videos to understand the dynamics of collisions. As it is high-speed photography, he uses flash at low power, like 1/64, to freeze the motion with an extremely short duration of light.
For droplets, Loechel uses a professional MJKZZ 6 Valve controller, but designs and 3D prints his own nozzles. Together with air pressure, nozzles shoot the liquid out into different shapes on the outside and also collide in the center with drops released from above.
When Loechel gets all components right for his shoot, he says the satisfaction is like no other. Finding a successful standout image amongst many that didn’t make it fires up Loechel to keep going, with photography being “the best therapy” he could ask for.
On the other hand, his least favorite part is the aftermath — cleaning up the mess.
Image credits: Photos by Craig Loechel.