“Splash” by Niamh Barrett (Or Re-envisioning Old Techniques)

"Splash" by Niamh Barrett

“Splash” by Niamh Barrett

Every idea that one could ever have for your photography has already been captured by someone else – hasn’t it?  It sure seems that way sometimes.  There are certain staple photos that every photographer seems to want to try, but that doesn’t stop us, does it?  Of course it’s one thing to simply recreate a photo that has already been done.  It’s refreshing to redo a photograph with a completely new vision, a new style and a new feel.  This week, I think you’ll agree that photographer Niamh Barrett‘s photograph, Splash, is a completely new interpretation of the classic water drop photo.

It’s important to note the genesis for this photo.  Niamh is part of the Get Pushed group that we wrote about recently, and this was a response to a push challenge.  The challenger gave her a choice challenges, but she chose to do a splash capture.  Without knowing her thought process, I can only imagine that the first thing that popped into her mind – the same that would pop into nearly everyone’s mind – would be the classic frozen water droplet or frozen splash of water.  There are several approaches Niamh could have taken using any number of well documented techniques using water.  I suspect that’s where Niamh started to re-imagine the concept by switching to hot chocolate (or is it coffee or tea with cream?).  Again, I don’t know Niamh’s actual thought process, but I believe the rest fell into place from there:  The delicate ornamental mug, a quaint and rustic setting, and a few flourishes like the tea rose.  All that was left was to follow through with the technique.

Technique is always (always) just a tool to achieve ones vision.  If I were only writing about the technique, the entire paragraph above wouldn’t exist.  In fact, I might tear Niamh’s photo for it’s alleged compositional flaws.  Those of you who have read my rants for years already know that I do not subscribe to the so-called rules.  Photography is ultimately an art, and it is truly about vision.  Vision has very little to do with technique.  A photo’s viewer doesn’t truly care about the skill and work that went into it.  A technically perfect photo might not hold the viewer’s interest.  And so I’m going to glance over that aspect of this photo discussion, save for one tiny detail:  How Niamh stopped the action here.  Traditionally, water droplet/splash photography is controlled using moderately long exposures and a flash.  A flash gives you the ultimate control.  Niamh did not use a flash to stop the motion in this case. She used the somewhat more difficult approach of simply using a fast exposure so that she could use the setting of her choosing.  After all, flash photography doesn’t work well in natural light.  Allegedly, Niamh needed to make a few attempts, so she just slid the cup down the table a few feet so as not to reveal the wet wood.

Everything about Splash, the subject, the setting and so on, screams “rustic”.  So I really appreciate Niamh’s post-processing treatment.  The focus is a little softer, the colors are warm and under-saturated, and the blue sky is anything but.  If I didn’t know any better, I would say this was a shot captured on film a few decades ago.  The treatment truly carries through the rustic theme.  The finished product is warm, soothing and fantastic.

You may think that as a response to a push challenge, this photo may not truly represent a photographer’s style.  But that is not the case here.  Niamh Barrett’s Splash is highly complimentary of her typical work, all of which is warm, soothing and reminiscent of happy times.  She captures everyday subjects in a simple but beautiful light.  So be sure to check out her photostream on Flickr.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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