Water beads

The little Coolpix came out of storage earlier this month. Having gone into one of the cabinets in the study to fish out my 300mm lens to take to the reserve, I stumbled across a plastic box. Lifting off the lid, I found literally dozens of packets of tiny coloured beads. Then I remembered. I bought a batch about three years ago, along with a tube of glow sticks. There are still loads left, so I thought I would soak more of the beads and try something a little different.

About ten packets were dropped into an old stainless steel bowl and they looked lost because of their size. Then I filled the bowl with water and left it in the utility room overnight. I had quite forgotten about them by the morning, until I went to put some towels in the washing machine. The bowl was full to the brim with jelly like beads in every colour under the sun.

At first I tried them in a cut glass bowl on top of my old light table. It was used for checking slides and it isn’t very big, but it gives a lovely even light and did a great job. Sadly the beads didn’t look too good in water, so I drained it off and put them in a vase instead. This time the weight of one upon the other created fascinating shapes and the small amount of water still left made the most beautiful wavy patterns. The Coolpix is my only true macro equipment and I think it did a much better job this time around. The results can be seen as the featured image above and below.

Having photographed the beads from every angle, I decided to try something I had wanted to do three years ago. We didn’t have the equipment back then and things hadn’t changed, but I was sure that with a bit of help and creative thinking we could come up with a cunning plan. The idea was to shoot the beads falling into a container and bouncing out again. I was never entirely sure what was really needed, but I thought it would entail a studio, a backdrop, several lights and definitely an expensive flash kit.

Instead we looked to the bath as the only place we could drop the beads and have them contained. We needed a decent looking surface to place across the top and thankfully I spotted one of our kitchen worktops. It was never secured properly as the entire side needs to be removed when the Aga is serviced. The cut glass bowl was fished out once again and I sent my husband up to the attic to find a couple of DIY lights. An old white towel was taped to the wall behind.

Sadly a few test shots revealed that the lights weren’t powerful enough and if I used the on-camera flash, the beads still created shadows on the background. With time running out (my husband was working from home and it was his lunch break) I gave up with the flash and settled for an exposure of 1/80th. I was pleased with the results, which is just as well because the beads had bounced everywhere – in the bath, on the floor and in the litter tray. It took ages to scrape the remnants off the carpet, but happily there was no lasting damage. Next time I will leave photo shoots like this to the experts!

 

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