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Oil And Water; Who Says They Don’t Mix? Bookmark and Share

A vocabulary word I still remember from high school chemistry is immiscible. This refers to the fact that some liquids can’t mix together to form a homogenous solution. Oil and water are an example. When oil is mixed with water, no matter how long you stir, they will never blend together to become one liquid.

This is the basis for a wonderful photography project you can do in your kitchen. All you need to produce photos like you see here is a shallow glass bowl, preferably with a flat bottom, vegetable oil, and water. For the color, you can use paint, fabric or even an abstract photographic print. To create the colorful effects in these pictures, I smeared several paint colors on an 8½x11” piece of computer paper. I found this to be the best and easiest way to get the colors I wanted.

The camera gear you’ll need is a macro lens or a lens that is capable of getting fairly close, or a medium range zoom lens with an extension tube or a diopter lens and the ability to use your flash off-camera or, lacking that, a light source that you can place near the setup.

The Setup
The shallow glass bowl has to be positioned above the background at a distance that allows you to make the colors completely out of focus. I placed the paint abstract about 2 ft below the bowl, and I used a couple of boxes and some books to do this (figure A). There are much better methods of setting this up, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making an elaborate set. This worked and it took me about two minutes to arrange. My wife held the bowl while I took the pictures to make sure it didn’t slip off the books.

Figure A
All Photos © Jim Zuckerman, All Rights Reserved

I filled the bowl about halfway with water, and then I simply poured an ounce or two of vegetable oil into the water.

To illuminate the paint, I used a single off-camera flash. I triggered the flash with a Pocket Wizard (www.pocketwizard.com), but less expensive wireless units could also be used. In a pinch you could use any light source.

Periodically, I would add a few more drops of oil, and sometimes I would use my finger to stir the liquids together to create new patterns. I waited for the oil and water to stop moving and then I would search for the intriguing graphic shapes that gave me graphically pleasing abstractions (#1 and #2).

#1

#2

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