This Liquid Vortex Photo Took a Lot of Trial and Error

Glass Vortex

All photos by Einar Otto Stangvik. Used with permission.

The image above is an absolutely beautiful swirling vortex image by photographer Einar Otto Stangvik. While over at his in-law’s, he experimented with a couple of photographic processes that he describes as a learning experience. He continued experimenting with different ideas to try to create something really cool and inspiring–but kept hitting hurdles. Eventually though, he managed to create the image above using some plexiglass, stirring the water, and a fog machine along with some well placed flashes.

We talked to Einar about creating this image.

Phoblographer: How did you get into photography?

Einar: My father was an avid photographer as I grew up. I think that got me into it first. I was probably around 26 before I really got hooked, though, and spent way too much time just photographing random places and things.

After a few years it got too tedious to bring all the heavy equipment around, so I switched to a mirrorless system with all manual lenses. That really wasn’t for me, as I was no good with either manual focus nor street photography. The love affair dwindled.

When my mother passed away from cancer last year, I spontaneously got on a bus and went to a camera store the following morning. I bought a bunch of stuff more in tune with my old gear, and started shooting again. That filled a void during a very difficult time, and re-ignited my love for photography.

My photographic purpose above all at this point, is to get good at photographing friends and family. And to preserve their memories. The loss of my mother definitely sparked that.

Phoblographer: How did you get the creative inspiration and concept for this image?

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Einar: I saw a computer image of a vortex in a pool some time back, and thought it’d be interesting to attempt the same in a smaller – real world – scale. The rest came together as I was browsing a hardware store this summer, looking for stuff I could use for random learning projects. I suppose I’m applying experimentation that’s familiar to me from my day job (being a programmer), to various photographic disciplines.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the post-production.

Einar: I’m subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and Lightroom and Photoshop in particular. I’ve also bought Google’s NIK collection. These are, as such, the software components I frequently use.

This specific picture was shot in raw with my D810 and 85mm PC-E, then imported, cropped and evened out in Lightroom, before getting low key and bleach bypass effects applied to it in NIK’s Color Efex. That usually makes smoke from fog machines look more dramatic. In this case it also made the almost all-white reflective tabletop look black.

Finally, I removed fingerprints, splashes and spills with Photoshop, dampened a glare on the top of the glass, and tweaked the overall contrast.