“I’m a juvenile product of the working class, whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass.” These Elton John lyrics got me thinking, what does it look like from where my best friend floats? How can I find out and make a photograph of it?
I spent a little time thinking it through. To get the right perspective, it would need to appear as if the camera is at the bottom of the glass looking up. This presents two main problems.
A camera won’t fit in a glass and beer would make a mess of said photographic device.
OK, how do we solve the first problem. Let’s cut the bottom off a pint glass and shoot up through the hole at the bottom. Now your camera doesn’t have to be in the glass it can be under the glass with no bottom. You can find the instructions on YouTube, but in short, get a glass cutter, score the glass, heat the line with a lighter, and cool quickly by dunking the glass in cold water. Repeat the heat and cold water process a couple of times and the bottom will pretty much pop off. It wasn’t exactly a clean break but it will do the job and I just have to be careful not to cut myself.
This fixes the perspective issue, but there’s still the trick of keeping the beer off your camera. Beer in belly good, beer on camera bad. Set up a piece of clear Plexiglas and shoot up through that. Glass is held with a clamp on a c-stand. If you put blocks under the legs of the saw horses, that will give it enough angle so the beer should hit the Plexiglas and run off in to a bucket placed at the end of the Plexiglas.
To make sure I had full control during the shoot, I wanted to have the beer bottle locked down in one location. Once I’ve framed the shot, then none of the main elements move. This meant putting it on a c-stand and in a clamp. Then how does the beer come out? Time to cut the bottom off a bottle the same way as the glass, this way the bottle photographed is really just a funnel for the beer. Pour the beer in the back and it comes out the front.
So let’s put this to paper to see how it would look.
We need two c-stands and clamps. A tripod and a tripod arm to get the camera under the Plexiglas. A laptop and usb cable to shoot tethered to Lightroom on a laptop, because there was no room to lay under the set up to frame it up in camera. Plus, you’re going to need to be mobile to do the pouring. You’re also going to need some remote shutter release. I used 3 Pocket Wizards, since you can use them to trip the shutter and your lights. One on the camera, one in my hand and one on the light. Light wise I planned to put an Einstein in a Strip box just to the left. More on that later.
One other note, do this someplace where a mess is not a big deal or easily cleaned. My garage doubles as “my make a mess with a photo project space”, despite the objections and eye rolling from my significant other. After you do this, it will smell like beer. Even after cleaning. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Before you start to pour, you’ll need to lock down your framing and focus. Since it’s going to be very difficult to get under the setup, you’ll be shooting and looking at what you have with the tethered connection in Lightroom and making adjustments based on what you’re seeing. Move around the c-stands to get everything in the right spot.
Once you’re happy with the frame and focus, move your light around. Where I started with it on the left side of the setup, I worked it around in a circle to get it where it looked the best. I ended with it almost directly across from the mouth of the bottle. With your shot and light ready to go, now is the time to grab the beer.
With a Pocket Wizard in one hand, you can pour the beer with the other one. As you pour it in to the cut beer bottle, be ready to hit the shutter release a few times. You’ll only have a couple of clicks before the beer hits the Plexiglas and splatters. Once that happens you’ll need to clean the plexi with paper towels and glass cleaner. Then you can go again. Getting the timing right is going to be the biggest challenge of the shoot.
When all else fails, and you cannot grab the beer coming out the way you want it, there’s a little trick you can use. Beer and honey is very similar in color but the viscosity is very different and honey pours very slow. Pour honey in the bottle instead of beer and you have a lot more time to get the drip in just the position you want. Plus, you’ll have more beer to drink. Unless you tell anyone you used honey, no one will be able to tell the difference by looking at it.