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Oil + Water = Abstract Art

April 1, 2013
Macro image of oil and water abstract photography

Oil & Water creates abstract art

Opposites Attract My Attention

I was putting some things away when I came across a decorative shopping bag that I had saved. Suddenly an idea came to mind. This would make a great background  for an oil and water abstract image! Now that I had my idea, it was time to set my creative wheels in motion.

Getting Started

My first step was to gather my materials. This meant the following items:

  • Camera & Macro Lens
  • Tripod
  • Adjustable Lamp
  • Dust Free Glass Pyrex Pie Plate
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Decorative Shopping Bag
  • 2 Tall Drinking Glasses
  • 1 Drinking Straw

The Setup

Creating this shot was not difficult. It simply required the proper setup — and a little time and patience. Here’s what I did:

  1. Placed the decorative shopping bag on a hard, flat surface.
  2. Placed the tall drinking glasses on top of the shopping bag.
  3. Balanced the pie plate on top of the two tall drinking glasses.
  4. Mounted my camera to the tripod.
  5. Moved the tripod into position so that the camera and lens were pointed directly down over the center of the pie plate.
  6. Used my lamp to illuminate only the decorative shopping bag.
  7. Filled the pie plate with water.
  8. Drizzled vegetable oil into the water.
  9. Carefully stirred the oil and water with the drinking straw.

Camera Settings

I set my camera to aperture priority mode. My Exif Data for this shot was 1/80s, f/11.0, ISO 200, 105mm. Note: Since I was shooting a flat, horizontal plane, the depth of field was not critical and therefore did not require stopping down to a very large f-stop number.

The Shoot

After stirring the oil and water, I waited for the oil bubbles to come to a stop. I used both manual focus and auto focus throughout the shoot. I periodically stirred the water to move the bubbles and to change their pattern. The slower I stirred, the larger the bubbles; the faster I stirred, the smaller. I preferred a mixture of both large and small bubbles, for I felt both together showed off the pattern of the decorative shopping bag in the most interesting way.

So there you have it. Pretty easy and perfect for experimentation on a cold or rainy day.

~ Liz Mackney

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