Adobe Creative Cloud

Story Behind The Image: Paint Explosion

For this week’s Story Behind The Image we asked Adobe Stock contributor Gualtiero Boffi how he created the stunning, vibrant and detailed photo Paint Explosion:

Questions, a self-portrait of Adobe Stock contributor Gualitiero Boffi.

The creation of this image is not accidental, I’d seen something similar and the possibility of turning mere drops of color into a complex and dynamic sculpture was absolutely a challenge I wanted to grasp.

I had in mind what I wanted to achieve but did not know exactly how to do it; at the very least, I had a rough idea.

The parameters to be considered are many colors, timing, light, support and sound. Each plays a vital role in ensuring the success of the shot.

The theory was quite simple, the color drops must be ordered on a vibrating membrane shaken by a speaker’s sound wave, then once in motion must be frozen by a high speed flash. Maybe not so simple after all.

The first step was to create the setup: A dark studio in order to have the scene illuminated only by the flash, a speaker with an elastic plastic dark cover, paint colors, and the right sound to create the “explosion.” The first test was a disaster. The timing was the main problem; it was virtually impossible to sync the shoot with the action. The use of a sound trigger that could allow me to make the shot precise and repeatable was indispensable.

Even the speaker was not right, it was too big and the vibrating surface too broad, influencing too much the motion and the shape of the paint. Each shot was different from the previous.

After changing the speaker membrane, things were better but I still was far from the result … the problem now was the density of the color. I tried different kind of colors and finally decided on acrylic paints which seemed to have the right behaviornot too fluid, not too dense and it mixed only during movement.

At this point I wanted to understand how big my sculpture would be and I realized that it was smaller than I had imagined. The drops of color must be really tiny too, otherwise the form assumed during the movement is not harmonic and becomes unusable.

Now we are entering into the macro world of photography. In fact the subject is only about two centimeters tall and this brings new problems such as the short distance from the camera, the color explosion, and the complexity of illuminating it; the flash that freezes the movement has to work at the maximum speed that corresponds to the minimum power.

The flash must be positioned very close to the colors, so as to be visible in the shot.

I’m not going to tell about the camera setup and the search of proper sound to get the correct color explosion… finally after two days of testing I managed to get the right image. Did I have fun? Sometimes and sometimes not, but the satisfaction of the final result, despite the difficulties, made everything worth it.

Remember that we are just mere drops of color.

A big thank you to Gualtiero for sharing the blood, sweat and paint that went into the painstaking process to capture this fabulous shot. Discover more of his work on his website and in his Adobe Stock portfolio.

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