By Mark A. Philbrick and Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

A few months back we were approached by our dance department to create a poster for their upcoming concert. One of the featured numbers involved students dancing in the rain so we thought that would make the perfect poster, as long as we provided the rain. In case you were wondering, we kind of have an affinity for water shoots as of late (Softball - Gymnastics).

We secured a local outdoor stage for the shoot that had access to water for the shoot. Mark wanted to create a dry area the dancers could stay in and then we had walls of water sandwiched in front of and behind them. We borrowed a Rain Tower that is used for creating rain on film sets for the back wall of water, and it created a really nice pattern. You could easily make something similar out of PVC and sprinkler heads. For the front wall we bought a simple fan hose attachment that actually worked quite well.

The setup for the shoot, click for a larger version.

We originally planned on splitting a hose into two lines to provide the water, but it just didn't give us enough water pressure, so we had to use a couple hundred of feet of hose to reach another spigot behind the stage. It didn't take long for water to pool up on the stage, so one of our students constantly hit it with a broom in between shots to make it safer for the dancers. We also set our lights far back from the action to make sure they kept clear of the water.

Back angle of the setup, click for larger.
The front angle with hot lights, click for larger.

The lighting setup was fairly simple, Mark wanted to have the option of stopping the water droplets with strobes or dragging the exposure by using hot lights, so we just set up both and swicthed back and forth between them depending on the setup. The hot lights were setup behind the dancers and were mostly used to create a simple silhouettes. For the strobes, we had 2 behind the dancers to backlight the scene and one softbox with a fabric grid in front to shape their faces. The lights were constantly being moved around, so it was great to have a couple of students on hand for quick changes.

The iPad with Shuttersnitch helped us show the dancers what adjustments were needed.

Once again we used our iPad and Shuttersnitch app to receive files wirelessly from the camera so that we could show the designer and the dancers' creative director the photos in real time. This helped us to quickly refine what they were doing so we could get the photos that we needed.

Shuttersnitch running on the iPad.

It really helped that we had that dry well for the dancers because it kept them dry longer. Of course we needed them to be drenched a certain point, but they got cold pretty fast thanks to a chilly September evening. All in all the dancers were awesome and did exactly what we needed them to do. Here are some of the final images with their exposure information, click on the photos to see larger versions:

1/30 Second, F/7.1, ISO 400, 40mm - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU
1/200 Second, F/8, ISO 400, 32mm - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU
1/125 Second, F/8, ISO 400, 40mm - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU
1/10 Second, F/11, ISO 400, 40mm - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

Mark Philbrick is the University Photographer at Brigham Young Unviersity and can be contacted at the BYU Photo Homepage.

Jaren Wilkey is the Manager of BYU University Photography. His work can be seen on the BYU Photo Homepage and on the BYU Photo Youtube Channel.