Sip your Coffee and stare…


Flat White, originally uploaded by Ben Grubb.


Here’s a random shot from today. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Starbucks’s (sorry, I don’t know what the correct pluralisation for Starbucks is), particularly the big one on New Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road tube station. I found that going up there with my MacBook helps me focus, and get more work done, especially review writing and the like, than I would at home. There’s less distractions, and it feels more like you have a proper “office” to go to.

I know it’s probably not the done thing to like big, corporate machines like Starbucks, but I do. Ok, so their business practices might not be totally squeaky clean, but I enjoy spending time in their cafes. They have a relaxed atmosphere which I find good for concentrating on work. Largely I agree that the global take over of chains isn’t the best, but I’m yet to find somewhere in central London which is easy for my to get to (i.e.: one tube), has plenty of space to work, a nice ambience and free, reliable Wi-Fi. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough. I’ll happy take suggestions.

Another plus side to Starbucks: I really like their branding and general style. Most outlets have really nice artwork and photography on the walls etc, and I really like the simplicity of their mugs and other paraphernalia. They recently started offering Flat White coffees on their menus which made me more excited than it should have done as I really like the new cups that they’re served in (see above).

Anyway, I didn’t intend this post to become a homage to corporate branding; I just wanted to share a new shot which I’m really happy with, and my mind seemed to get carried away. Maybe I should lay off the coffee…

Making A Splash…

Cookie Splash! I have to say, last Wednesday was definitely a very productive day; photographically speaking. Not only did I have a very successful night out with Phil, but I also managed to get some great results at the other end of the shutter speed spectrum. The image to the left is the most successful of a series of attempts I had to capture a nice, clean “cookie splash”. I came across the idea while searching around on Flickr a while back, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to give it a try myself. I’ve done a fair amount of long exposure/slow shutter speed in my time, but this was something pretty new. As you can see, the idea is to freeze the action of a cookie falling into a mug of coffee, and capture the resulting splash in mid air – a pretty simple concept, yet still quite tricky to execute.

The shot(s) were taken in the kitchen of our flat. My camera was mounted in a tripod, with a remote shutter cable attached. I was using my 50mm prime lens set to an aperture of f2. I had the shutter speed set to 1/2500th to freeze the splash and the camera was set on ISO 1000 (it can get quite dark in our flat in the afternoons, so the high ISO was a necessity to expose the shots correctly). Even with those settings, things were still coming out a little dark. I set up a couple of angle poise lamps on either side of the mug, which helped brighten the shots up, without causing any really harsh shadows.

Once the set up was in place, it was time to begin the fun! I really had no idea how this was going to work out, so went for it and hoped for the best! The process did become quite time consuming, as after every attempt I had to clean up the mess, get rid of the of cookie filled coffee, wash the mug and make a new brew. Also, my aim wasn’t always the best, so there were a few lame splashes, or even times when I totally missed the mug altogether. There was also some tweaking around to be done after each sequence, to get the best composition and to adjust the lighting to get it in the right place. The final photo (posted here) was part of the last sequence of shots I took. By the end I had ironed out many of the kinks, but more critically, I was running out of cookies! As I was shooting in rapid fire, I was left with a really interesting triptych of shots which shows the action of what I was doing rather nicely:

Cookie Splash Sequence: Click for a larger view…

So, there you have it. It was all a pretty simple set up, but it was a lot of fun to do, and I was really pleased with the results. Like I said, it was pretty messy though, and I’m glad I made the most of it as when my girlfriend reads this I’ll be banned from doing anything like it again! I’d definitely be keen to try more fast shutter experimentation in the future though (although it may have to be outside), particularly as the summer will (hopefully) be rolling around soon – The sun being the best angle poise lamp of them all. Or something.

If anyone reads this and is inspired to give it a go themselves; please let me know! I’d love to see how you got on.