Ruth Carll's picture

Short, Fat and Blue

This is water soluble suminagashi ink in water. I use this ink because of the very reason these images sometimes get constructive criticism about focus. That is that the ink is dissolving rapidly into the water and therefore has a soft, ephemeral and surreal look. The inks are dropped in at different rates and through an oil barrier which provides some control. Then I flip the final image to be 'trees'. Enjoy!

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wow Ruth you can make amazing Ink photos.
I really like them and have tried myself but can never get it to work. any tips?


I have played with A LOT of options and struggled as well. I found the depth is what matters so that you can clearly focus with a little DOF without catching the glass/plastic container. I am now using a small fish tank (3 gallon). It made all the difference. Also, you never know where the ink is going to go so the more space, the more likely your plume will not run into the side!

There are lights on the right and left side of the tank at different levels which creates (I hope) a little surreal effect as the ink moves in and out of the light. There is a white paper wrapped around the entire set up. Before starting I drop one or two drops of heavy cream in the back and let it go for a bit to get the 'backdrop". Then two drops of pink and blue and off we go! The most important thing though is to put a thin layer of oil (I use baby oil) on the surface of the water. The ink drops sink through it and sit on the interface between the water and oil. This gives you time to reset you focus or make adjustments as needed and then I poke the ink drop with a toothpick so it breaks through and sinks. This makes all the difference for me because I can control the timing of the drop. The downside is that I have to really wash the tank between every shoot, refill and re-oil. It is a pain but worth it.

Thanks Ruth