Photographing Through Glass
Through the water glass. Sounds like the title to a movie or a good novel. But this time is a reference to the taking of photographs of subjects through a special type of glass sometimes called water glass but better known as corrugated. You can see them widely used in sliding shower doors.
This special type of glass is stretched while it is still pliable and the end product has some small ripples that appear to mimic the gentle rolling patterns in the surface of a calm lake.
On a previous post I talked about photographing subjects through patterned glass and this theme is similar except that you use a specific type of glass to create a specific type of effect. Here is a link with some more information about water glass and their prices, which by the way comes in a wide variety of colors; Anything water glass.
This water glass can be found at most arts & crafts supply stores and mostly anywhere where glass is sold. Your piece of glass does not have to be large only about 8X10 should be more than enough. You should also consider creating a holding base which doesn't have to be anything else than a piece of wood with groves cut into it to hold the bottom of the glass.
You should also consider attaching a retainer screw so that it fits on top of a tripod which makes it easier to carry the glass from location to location.
The idea is to select a subject, place the glass in front of it and then taking the photograph. The pattern simulating a slow flow of what appear to be smooth ripples makes the images very pleasant to look at.
To get even more creative, water glass comes in many colors, chose one or a few to render your images in a variety of subtle shades. Note that this project can also substitute water glass with simulated "glass" plastic panels, like the ones used for sky lights, but the effects are not quite the same and the plastic ones are usually less translucent than the real thing.
The list of subject is quite varied. Flowers are excellent subjects, so are lighted candles, butterflies and still life's. You can also take portraits this way too or use a printed photo placed behind the glass. You will need a lens that allows you to get in close or a telephoto which lets you stand away from the scene yet focus on the glass panel.
Remember that different lenses will allow for different applications. Keep the subject and the glass within the frame; avoid recording the glass frame that's why you should get in close to the glass surface.
Fruits are also very good subjects as is a glass container into which you drop some drops of food coloring and shoot the image quickly while the coloring is still mixing with the water. This theme resembles some of the Monet style paintings; they are recognizable shapes and subjects but have that smooth rippled texture present in them.
As far as what type of light to use, it is always a good idea to use diffused light to spread a softer light cast upon the subjects without the harsh shadows that can result from more direct light.
Keep in mind that the closer your subject is to the glass the less of the effect you get. A good suggestion is to use a group of subjects some closer to the glass surface while others are a little farther off like a display of flowers. To begin, the subject should be quite close to the glass surface but without touching it and work your way from there; incrementing the distance as you proceed.
This can be carried out in the field or better yet in the studio, which allows one more control over the final composition. If you find it difficult in obtaining natural subjects such as real flowers or real butterflies, even feathers, then using artificial ones also work, but you should then place the glass a bit farther off to blend the shape and designs; in other words to disguise the artificiality of your subjects.
As with any project that involves photography, make a concerted effort to do your best to add some creativity. Try many different subjects besides the ones mentioned and experiment to see what effects you come up with and you may be surprised by the resulting images.
A good slant on this theme is to locate a body of calm water such as a peaceful lake, place the piece of water glass in between your camera and the scene but allow it to only cover the part of the scene that contains the water while not allowing any other element such as trees or wildlife to be encompassed by the glass and snap the shot, even use colored glass to impart a surreal effect.
You can also achieve the same effect by adding the water glass texture digitally with Photoshop filter tools but the manipulating effects are usually noticeable unless you are very digitally adept.
A good set of these images is easily submitted to the greeting card industry and can also be used in the book publishing industry as well as pliable for the poetry publishing market. Very good photos can also be shown and sold at most fine art galleries. This project is nothing new, so you therefore have to add your touch to distinguish yourself.
© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez