The SplashArt Kit from High Speed Photography UK is liquid drop control system using a solenoid and nozzle connected to a trigger system for camera and flash. It costs £179 and enables you to create perfectly timed single or dual drop photos.
SplashArt Kit MkII Features
The kit comes with a quick start guide (three A4 sheets) to help you set up and use the equipment.
You have a typical science lab style stand with an arm leading to a ball & socket clamp that holds the solenoid with nozzle and fluid container. The solenoid is connected to a small controller box that has knobs to adjust the size of drops, space between drops and camera delay. The controller is mains powered and connects to the camera via a supplied cable.
SplashArt Kit MkII Controller
The cable has four camera connector adaptor extensions so you can hook up to Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax or Olympus cameras.
SplashArt Kit MkII Connectors
- SplashArt Controller with outputs to Solenoid and Camera.
- Solenoid and Tank Assembly with Mariotte Siphon design for pressure control.
- Metal Stand with custom precision mounting for valve alignment.
- Shutter Release Cable with 2M extension.
- Power Supply
SplashArt Kit MkII Handling
Despite the complex subject, setting up this kit is really easy. The quick start guide explains in one line sentences how to connect up the various cables to the controller. And then recommends you start with milk as the easiest liquid to work with.
Assembling the stand took me back to my school days in the chemistry lab with the test tube clamps. It's a metal column that screws into a metal base. The thread is very tight and didn't screw in fully, but when in place is rigid and secure. Then you connect the horizontal pole via a two clamp bracket. This lets you raise the pole up and down the column and extend or contract the pole on the column so the nozzle can be over or away from the metal base.
At the end of the pole is a ball & socket style head with a plastic clip to hold the liquid chamber and valve. This is quite crude and works like a plumbers pipe clip. I wonder if that will break if you're regularly changing liquids. A more substantial locking clip would be preferred here. If you unclip to refill the chamber it's easy to move the ball & socket so the position is no longer aligned as it was before.
The liquid container has a clip down lid and a nozzle to direct feed fluid in. I only half filled and was able to take hundreds of photos before the liquid was drained. A full container would allow well over 1000 shots.
There are four knobs on the controller. The first one changes the size of the first drop. The second one changes the delay between the first and second drop. The third controls the size of the second drop. The fourth adjusts the delay between the drop release and the camera firing so you can time the splash moment precisely. They don't have scales and the instruction manual suggests setting them all to 10oclock as a starting point
Press the button to activate the drop and this fires the camera once the drop is released. You hold it down to switch between single and twin drop.
SplashArt Kit MkII Performance
It was only a few minutes before I'd worked out how to get two drops to collide and I was soon creating shot's I'd never managed previously using a dripping tap, or balloon filled with water and small pinhole leak.
It's important to get the nozzle angled correctly on the stand and that can be a bit of a faff with the crude ball & socket. Get it wrong and the spike will lean to one side.
The guide gives tips on focusing and that's easy once your splash base is in place. I started, as recommended, using milk and I let the drips go into a wine glass also full of milk. As the session progressed I started to dilute the milk with water to get a more bouncy liquid with taller spikes. You can adjust the height of the nozzle on the stand so the drip has to travel further and this creates a longer thinner spike.
It's quite easy to shoot and tweak the controls until you have a spike with decent height, then you adjust the interval between drips to place the collision in the right part of the spike.
It's a really enjoyable type of photography that is never predictable. You can play with different liquids, backgrounds, flash position and lighting gels to get different results, but the SplashArt MkII will make sure the drip hits the surface in a timely fashion.
I did find when I was chimping at shots in between drip sessions that the trigger didn't fire the flash on the first new drip. But once you're aware of this it's not to much trouble. Joe from High Speed Photography Ltd suggests The missed shot and timing anomalies can normally can be eliminated using mirror lockup. This phenomenon is due to the camera having a chat with itself. In the case of Canons adding a 64 ms extra shutter lag.
As you can see from the sample photos you can create some interesting effects with this kit.
I used an old Sunpak G4500DX flash that has power reduction to enable a faster flash duration (the set up I used is in the opening photo above). All the shots, apart from the last one in this sequence, were taken at settings that would avoid any daylight exposure. I deliberately reduced the shutter speed on the last one to see if I could create some motion blur so it's acting like slow sync flash and you can see the direction of the water drops as they burst apart.
The background was changed to give the different colours.
Value For Money
Until recently this sort of gadget was hand built by the sort of person who subscribed to Practical Electronics magazine. And if you are capable with a soldering iron you can still make your own for minimal cost. But as drop photos have started to appear on galleries like ours the demand for pre built kit has grown and now we have a variety of companies selling parts to make the job easier. Most seem to like making the process quite a chore. Camera Axe, for example, sell the parts individually so you have to work out what you need and when you add all the bits up it will be around the same price as SplashArt. You can save £30 buying the kit without the stand.
SplashArt Kit MkII Verdict
£179 may seem like a lot for quite a specialist piece of kit, but it's a small price to pay to get precise liquid collisions with minimal effort. Especially when you consider the colliding feature with two drops. The system works well and apart from the crude stand and attachment it's a great bit of kit. If you like this kind of photography you could even buy one, shoot all the photos you want and then sell it so it's not too much of an outlay. But consider trying to be more creative and play around with different fluids such as coffee and cream, different colour backgrounds, lighting gels etc to increase your portfolio of creative splash art. It's a great way to continue photography during the miserable winter days or evenings.
||It's a small price to pay to get precise liquid collisions with minimal effort.
SplashArt Kit MkII Pros
Good control and precision
Two drip option
All you need in one clear kit
SplashArt Kit MkII Cons
Crude stand clamp
Trigger sometimes doesn't fire camera, after a break
|VALUE FOR MONEY
SplashArt is available direct from PhotoTrigger.co.uk