Engineering and creative photography wouldn’t usually go hand-in-hand. But Martin Varga’s spectacular fluid sculptures, shot with Twist 60, are the product of years of meticulous planning mixed with creative experimentation. Learn how he creates this incredible water drop art.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I work as a registered civil engineer and started creative art photography seven years ago as a way to escape from the hectic workday. I returned to school to study photography and digital art. During this time, I became a member of the Bakersfield Art Association where I currently display monthly themed photo art projects which include fluid dynamic, macro and photo-impressionism. My award-winning photography has been published in Bakersfield Magazine, Bakersfield Lifestyle Magazine, Getty Images, The Bakersfield Californian, Kern Business Journal, Water Association of Kern County and a number of other business and trade publications.
Tell us about your Fluid Sculpture Art?
One of my primary creative techniques captures unique shapes, colors, and textures created from colliding colored waterdrops traveling at high speed. I draw upon my love for nature, liquids, engineering, and science to design artistic concepts in the studio. The miniature worlds created by this innovative process require numerous hours to prepare and are not always easily seen in real-time.
Which lenses do you use to create your work?
One of my favorite lenses to use is the Lensbaby Twist 60. This lens provides a beautiful swirly bokeh which is best created using a wide-open lens aperture and a full-frame DSLR camera. I typically use manual focus for all of my studio photography and find this lens easy to focus, providing a sharp center focus point at the desired depth of field. The combination of the swirly bokeh and center sharpness is ideal for creative fluid dynamic photography. The sharp center and blurred periphery lens effect add to the overall look of the image creating the appearance of an “angel” silhouette surrounded by clouds in my simple waterdrop images. For my dark macro crown drops, I add a reflective background to add a starry circular bokeh around the front-lit reflected acrylic paint splash. The Twist 60 is the first lens I purchased from Lensbaby but it will certainly not be my last as I look to continue to explore my artwork using more lenses from Lensbaby.
Can you describe your studio and why you have it set up a particular way?
My studio is also an important part of how I photograph the water drop art. The studio is a small workshop I converted over to a photo studio several years ago. I use a full-frame camera with a high ISO performance to capture detailed images at low light. Most of my images are captured in complete darkness allowing me to use off-camera speedlights to stop the forming fluid sculpture at high speeds. This is done by setting the speedlights at 1/64 power. This power setting has a flash duration of 1/18000 of a second which more than two times faster than my camera’s maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second. In order to coordinate the actions of fluid movement with the speedlight, I use a shutter speed on my camera of 8/10 of a second. The longer shutter duration allows the camera sensor to be completely exposed through the process of setting the fluid into motion, opening the shutter, completing the flash cycle and closing the shutter. This also prevents shutter curtain shadows from forming on the captured image. The dark studio prevents ambient light from reflecting on the forming image causing image blur. The studio environment provides a clean sharp capture of the image traveling at high speeds.
How long does it take to envision and complete one of these photos?
The time span needed to envision and capture the image has varied from several hours to several years. It takes many trials to perfect the look of a certain type of image. Fluid density, temperature, colors, lighting, and timing are just some of the factors that influence the final look of the image. As an engineer, I use an analytical approach to problem-solve my designs concepts. For my photo art, I keep meticulous notes on the adjustments I make and then review them later to make modifications where they are needed to improve the look or concept of an image. I also like to explore creative avenues with my artwork to hopefully provide the viewer with an image they have never seen before.
Is there a way to build on what you’ve been shooting, perhaps even larger scale?
I constantly try to expand my creativity by adding new elements to my images. I see an endless array of possibilities with this form of art to continue developing new looks and additional complexities to exiting images. The challenge here is to balance complexity with creativity in order to preserve interest in the beauty of the shapes created.