Who needs expensive glass lenses when the element comprising 70% of the planet can apparently sub in as one? Dutch photographer Robin de Puy made a series of intimate black-and-white portraits using water as her camera lens. and the results have a natural, painterly feel that looks worth the considerable effort put into developing the technique.
The camera works by placing a water droplet on a teflon-coated glass plate that keeps the droplet from breaking its spherical shape, according to Portrait Academy. Electrifying the plate stretches the drop, allowing the camera to focus. A mirror bends the light coming through the front of the camera, sending it through the drop and snap! An 18 megapixel industrial sensor records the shot. The biggest catch is that, due to evaporation, the plate must be cleaned and the droplet replaced every 15 minutes. The shutter speed also must remain slow, requiring subjects to hold still to avoid blurriness.
Producer Anneloes Bakker tells Creators the project was almost derailed when a prototype only produced blurry images. Liquid lenses have been in development since physicist Bruno Berge invented them in 1995, promising to help cameras become cheaper and more durable and stable. They usually use a mixture of oil and water, but a team of scientists worked for six months to develop a camera that could use a single drop of pure water as a lens.
"All in all, the way you shoot becomes very limited and you loose a lot of details in an image, such as skin texture," Bakker says. "Yet at the same time it's very interesting to go back to the basics of photography."
The water was provided by Dutch water brand SPA, and the de Puy developed the technique with Hans Feil and Pieter van der Valk of Etulipa. Check out the resulting portrait series below.
See more of Robin de Puy's work on her website.