Making a Splash with Champagne

January 5, 2017

Have you ever had an idea for a shoot lingering in the back of you mind…something you wanted to try but never had the time to get it done?  I have several floating around in my head.  I can see how it’s put together and the concept of how to achieve it.  Well, a few weeks ago, one of my photo editors, asked if I was available to do a studio shoot.  She wanted me to photograph a cork shooting out of a champagne bottle and I jumped at the chance to make it happen!  I’ve had this picture, in slow motion, of unwrapping the foil and the cork flying off the bottle and champagne spewing out the bottle.



The assignment was for the SATURDAY section of the Los Angeles Times.   I sketched out my ideas, on paper, to make this happen.  I added a little hint of blue light around the cork for more separation.   I wanted to convey the feeling of a lot of energy with the champagne shooting out of the bottle.   The trick was catching the cork in full flight.  So, I thought, why not position the cork directly below the bottle upside down.  Gravity would take over and the Champagne would flow from the bottle, hit the cork and create a splash.  (In post production I would simple rotate the photo 180 degrees and voila!  Instant explosion!)  I left room to crop the image in post in case I wanted to have it tilting at the 30 or 45-degree angle!   Both the cork and bottle were clamped to separate light stands so neither would move.


Even though the cork is the smallest element in the picture, the image reveals the incredible power of color, because the eye is drawn directly to the color and appearance of movement of the cork and the splash of blue in the background.


I placed the cork, with the cage still attached, pointing straight down for maximum flow potential.  I then took a Dremel, with a glass-cutting blade, and cut the bottom off the bottle so liquid could be poured through again and again until I was satisfied with the shot.   (Note:  be sure to sand down the sharp edges of the bottle so you do not cut your fingers.  And it might be a good idea to wrap the edge with gaffer’s tape as insurance.)  I placed a bucket under the cork to collect the run-off and placed towels around that to collect the additional spill.  The pour was achieved by trial and error until I captured the most impressive looking champagne pop I could muster. 


I lit the photograph with a medium bank and a white fill card to achieve the highlights on the bottle and also lit the liquid to get the translucent feel.  I chose the background to be black velvet to absorb stray light.


I must say, the most challenging part of the shoot was not putting this all together but rather drinking the 2 of the 6 bottles I used for the shoot and still be lucid!  And, why two bottles of champagne you ask?  Well, I needed a second bottle just incase I broke the first.  “Sure, that was the reason for drinking two bottles…sure!”  Well that’s my story I say, and I’m stick (hic) to it!


But, I didn’t break the first bottle!




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© 2016 By Kirk D. McKoy