We have an ongoing research project in our lab, where we take closeup photos of droplets of water colliding with each other. The initial motivation was to explore the connection between fluid mechanics and visual arts. This week, we used water splashes a a special effect for a tap dance photo shoot. We didn’t pursue any science per se, but the artistic connection was even stronger, as dance is an art in itself, and photography is an artistic way of expressing it!

When I first started photographing dance performances, I thought that still images would be far inferior to video in the context of dance. After all, video direccaptures music and motion, which are both essential elements of the dance. But as I took more and more dance photos, I realized that the photos have something that the video doe not have – the ability to freeze the motion and to give the audience time to appreciate the fine details of it. If you think carefully, one of the aspects that makes a photograph interesting is offering the viewer a perspective that is not commonly available in real life. With sport photography, for example, the most interesting images show athletes up-close, at the moment of intense physical effort – something that a spectator cannot see from their seats. Likewise, during a dance performance, anyone in the audience can hear the music and see how synchronized the motions of the dancers are. But when the motion is stopped in a photograph, we have a chance to appreciate the details that are are too fleeting to notice otherwise.

This is exactly what makes high-speed photography of water splashes valuable from a scientific standpoint. It is a way to examine the details of the fluid motion that normally happen very fast.

So combining splashes and dance makes a perfect case for creating interesting photos. Typically, we see both dancers and water droplets in motion, so it is fun looking at either (or both, in this case) frozen in time.