Writing with Light

How to Create a Refracted Macro Image

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop on Macro photography, specifically water drops with refracted images.

You can see those posts here and here. I’m by no means an expert (or even close) as I’m still practising and learning but I wanted to share with you the process and equipment you’ll need to create these images.

Equipment Used

macro photography, refracted image, water drop, flower


The set-up for this type of photography is quite simple and can be done just about anywhere. I set myself up on my kitchen table. For the photograph above I didn’t have any fresh flowers at home but I did have a fake one so I used that. It had a long stem which I twisted to create a stable base in order for the flower to sit on the table on its own.

I used a Third Hand tool to hold a Eucalyptus stem in place, directly in front of the flower. I then sprayed the stem with water. Now be careful on the type of spray bottle you use. The only one I had in the house only sprayed a stream of water not a mist spray. The stream is to strong to use on something more delicate such as milkweed. The Eucalyptus stem was strong enough to withhold the stream but I was only able to get a few drops on the leaves as opposed to a multitude of water droplets that a mist would create. The water drops act like a lens and anything that’s behind it gets refracted in the water drop.

As you’ll note in the equipment list above, I use my 90mm Macro lens with 3 extension tubes attached so that I can get as close as possible. The extension tubes will extend the reach of my lens so that I can get even closer to the object and be able to focus. I tried using my flash mounted onto my camera but I found I couldn’t direct the light the way I wanted. By using an off-camera flash cord it allowed me to hold my flash and direct it exactly where I wanted it. This does make it a bit tricky but I was able to balance my lens on my forearm to stabilize the camera. Getting a small table top tripod to mount the flash on is probably a good solution but until I get one this method will have to do.

You can click on the image to enlarge it. Oh and the Starbucks coffee is optional. Have fun.

macro photography, setup, equipment, macro equipment, water drop     


15 responses

  1. Wow! Edith, very cool set up and very accessible, I mean you can create beautiful pictures directly in your kitchen. I like that! No freezing hands. 😉


    March 10, 2015 at 8:41 am

    • LOL…you’re exactly right Anne. I’ll be honest. I wimped out this year. It was just too cold for me and I was battling a cold for a good part of February so getting creative indoors was the way to go.


      March 10, 2015 at 9:28 am

  2. Very impressive!


    March 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

  3. I’m very impressed with your steady forearm, Edith! Nicely done, and well explained.


    March 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    • Thanks so much Laurie. The arm is steady for a minute then I have to rest. That camera is heavy. Actually the flash takes care of a little bit of camera shake its getting the focus nailed that’s the challenge.


      March 10, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      • Yes, these macro shots are very fussy when it comes to focus! I think I’d be tempted to stack up some books or something to put the camera on, without a tabletop tripod…the slightest little movement can remove all the focus. Well done!


        March 11, 2015 at 4:40 pm

  4. Perhaps you could try it with someone pointing one of those led lights at the water.


    March 11, 2015 at 5:31 am

  5. Len

    Nice description of your technique Edith. I too am going to dabble in macro this year only with flowers. I am headed to Philly for Denise Ippolito’s workshop. You are killing these shots.


    March 12, 2015 at 11:45 am

    • Thanks so much Len. Have fun with Denise. I’d really like to do another workshop with her as well.


      March 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

  6. LB

    I love seeing you at work, Edith! and of course, seeing the bicycle images on the wall 🙂


    March 12, 2015 at 11:45 pm

  7. Very nice Edith, great write up. Another trick I learned on the way which really helps allot is using glycol/water mixture, it’s more viscose than water and stays in place much better, and just as clear, nice work


    March 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

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