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Caustics 101 - Glass foreground distortion effects

Ryan Sherwood

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Lately, I've been very interested in experimenting with various glass/flashlights/translucent objects to distort the frame. I wanted to gather feedback from other people on objects or techniques they've found to work well.


I've used various pieces of beveled glass, vaseline smeared on UV filter, water bottle and got some pretty cool results. Using a flashlight to veil the lens gets pretty nice results, but it's hard to find consistency using some of these techniques since the results are so variable.


Anyone ever rig a flashlight to 15mm rails so the veil stays in the same spot? I'm also interested in getting the "double edge" look and experimenting with glass beads.


It seems that when using caustics two of the big rules are: 1. Use longer focal lengths. 2. Shoot into backlight.



Two notable examples:





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When you use prisms, bent plastics, glass, etc, you usually put a small magic arm on the mattebox so it can hold the piece of whatever you have in front of the lens for the whole take in the desired position without you having to worry about moving the camera and the "thing" at the same time.


Sometimes you can do that with a flashlight to create a flare, for example, if the camera is locked off and you want to place a flare in a desired point.

However, it is usually done with a tripod and, let's say, a pocket par, attached to a tripod or on hand.


I like playing with a lot of things in front of the camera (even tripods) and you can find some frames from something I'm shooting at the moment using a lot of those techniques on the following link:




Have a good day.

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