Camera Axe first tests

Finally got a chance to test out the Camera Axe I purchased (and built) a little while back. I’ve been itching to try out some commercial advertising style product shots using water splashes – the picture in my head was along the lines of this ad from 2009 (and I realise that Coca Cola spends a bucket load on editing in post!).

Liquids are good at misbehaving – they never seem to make the shape you want! But they do have the advantage of making other cool shapes you never expected! Read on for more!

This particular setup took much longer to get going than expected – after testing the Camera Axe the night before, it decided to not play nice on game day!! Lucky I didn’t organise a model for this shoot, they would have been bored (and expensive) waiting around while I got the tech working again! On the plus side, ShutterClass Studios had a couple of other shoots happening at the same time, so there was plenty going on and the time flew even with the technical hitches!

One of the reasons I use the Camera Axe for shoots like these is because it makes a mess, and I can be my own assistant. Lots of liquid being thrown around can be hard to manage with multiple people on set, and the black plastic I use on the floor is actually quite slippery. Add all the cables involved, and I’d much rather reduce the risk of personal injury or gear damage and just run the whole shoot myself!

Behind the scenes it looks pretty straight forward – a laser is used to create an invisible beam across the top of the glass (for the ice-cube splashes) and behind the glass (for the all around splashes). When the ice cube or water breaks the beam, it takes a photo. Simple!! Well, except getting the delay settings right was tricky, often catching the splash too early or too late!! And there’s were a couple of idiosyncrasies of the setup that surprised me – the camera won’t preview while the motor drive is on pre-focus (makes sense), and I took a HEAP of useless images every time I broke the laser beam adjusting something!!

You may also notice in the setup photo that there’s an on-camera strobe and another 2 at the back. Originally the on-camera was used to trigger the back two (optical, not master/slave), but after a bit of fooling around it became clear that Canon likes trying to be smart! Eliminating HSS as an option due to the setup and conditions, I was left with 1/400th @f/6.3 by directly triggering the rear flashes with a cable (the two plugs in the camera are the flash trigger and the motor drive from the Camera Axe). But enough of the tech talk, msg me if you want more info!

If I was to do the shoot properly (ie commercially), I’d use clean acrylic and better lighting – and perhaps consider using white acrylic instead of black, since that seems to be popular for advertising and stock photos. Overall I’m pleased with these tests, they’ve proven the Camera Axe is going to give me some good reliability and a heap of flexibility!