Welcome to some random creativity, a series of posts about unusual things I'm doing to create unique photography.

Filters and More Filters?

How many photography posts, articles and books have you seen on filters? Yeah, I know. But I haven't seen much like this yet. Are you ready to try something new?

Source of Inspiration

While visiting Hawaii, I wandered through the art galleries of every local artist I could find. One artist's photography images are permanently etched in my mind. Many years later, I have regretfully lost her name, and have been searching for her images. When I find her, I'll let you know!

About a year after seeing this particular gallery, I wanted to try some thing to see if I could get a similar look in my photography. I found a filter technique that reminded me of that look. It is all-but-impossible to duplicate anothers' image exactly. One will have different subjects, different lighting, and many other factors that mark the images one of a kind. A photography image is a moment in time that is temporary and unique. That's one of the things I love about photography. So even when you use this filter technique, you will get a result that is only yours.

Florence Delva is not the artist photographer I found in the Hawaiian gallery, (Ms. Delva's work is far more abstract) but there is a hint of similarity. Beautiful.

Choice Subject, Subjective Choice

Choose a subject that makes sense. This filter uses water, so a subject that has some association with water (whether you add it artificially or it is already there) is important. That being said, I'm sure some of you will ignore this recommendation and come up with some fascinating contrasts that really work. I'm cheering you on.

Not Just Another Floral

This image is a favorite of mine. I love the way the colors blend, the way the light glows, and how soft and feminine the flower looks. The thing I'm most proud of is that most work in the creation of this image was done before the shot was taken. I'm a big Adobe fan, and I use Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator -And And And- with a complete disregard for sleep. That being said, when I create an image that doesn't need after-processing, I feel super-accomplished. I call this series "In the Mist".

 What It Is and Isn't

This is not a soft filter, and there are no post-processing filter additions required. The image effect is made through the light wave distortion through the water droplets. The amount and location of distortion on your image depends on placement and distance to your camera lens.

Filter Build

Making the filter requires glass and a spray bottle with water. I used a piece of glass from an 8x10 frame. Be careful and avoid cutting yourself on the sharp edges. If you'd rather, tape all the edges so the glass is easier to handle.

Plan and Prep

  • What is your goal? What colors, subject, lighting, etc. do you want in your image? Determine this first. Once this is all planned, ready, and set up, then get your camera and filter materials.
  • Be aware of your light sources. Bright sun vs. overcast vs. outdoor shade vs. backlighting vs. artificial lighting all look very different on your subject and change the distortion on your glass filter. 
  • The very last part of the shoot is spraying water on the piece of glass right before you take the picture. I sprayed water around the edges of the glass, so the distortion is greater further from the center. I kept the center of the glass mostly clear because I wanted the contrast of the blurry outer areas with a sharp floral center.
  • For these images, I also sprayed the flowers. The water droplets on both subject and filter blend them together nicely.

Creation Satisfaction

Test the difference holding the filter closer and further away from the camera. Tilting the glass can catch the light differently as well. You may wish to set up your glass filter on a stable platform or tripod. I prefer the hand-held method because I get greater flexibility in creating the exact image I want.

Next Random Creation: A Water Filter ...and Architecture?

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out jenniferapffel.com, albaphotography.net or look for her on fineartamerica.com.