A Moment with Nature


The World in a Drop of Water

by Thomas Ramsay


The storms had finally ended, leaving Northern Virginia in a cloak of the whitest white imaginable.  Everywhere, snow had been blown into mountainous drifts, the kind that weaken the spirit even before the first shovelful has been lifted.

I opened the blinds of an upstairs window to see the sun rising yellow into a deep blue sky, lending form and color to the drifts below.  Along the gutters of every roof hung dagger-like icicles, some more than four feet long and sculpted into unique crystalline structures by days' worth of snow melting atop warm roofs, then re-freezing.  Now, as the sun's rays breached the rooflines and corners of our own house, the icicles on the south side began forming fresh drops of water at their tips.  Watching droplets release and begin their descent was mesmerizing, so much so that, uncharacteristically, it took a while for me to even think of taking photographs.

The situation was perfect for high speed photography:  Translucent subject (ice), brilliantly backlit by high intensity light (sun), making possible the use of a very high shutter speed (1/6400 of a second, in this case) to "stop" the motion (falling water drops).  Two of the resulting images make up today's Moment with Nature.

One re-freezes in time and space the multiple drops in a stream of meltwater.   

While examining the many such images taken that morning, I observed that each suspended drop of water was itself a tiny lens, encapsulating a view of the world beyond, as seen in the second view:  a single droplet captured in mid-air against the blue sky, showing our neighbor's house and yard, framed by our fence.   However, as with any other lens (a camera's, a human eye), the water droplet "sees" the world upside down, so the picture has been inverted to show the scene right side up.

Imagine, every raindrop is like a tiny motion picture camera, continuously imaging the world in 360-degree 3D as it descends toward earth. 

Tom and Nancy

"A Moment with Nature" (TM), photo, and text: copyright 2012 by Thomas E. Ramsay and Nancy Goetzinger