a hot cup

November 26, 2018  •  5 Comments

Having just been through a holiday in the United States where food seemed to be the major subject, it is good to sit with a hot cup of something, and gently ponder the world.  And since we were recently loaned a copy of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, my mind frequently drifts to that subject I chose not to approach in high school or college - physics.  Tyson has a way of making it much more approachable, although I am definitely in my infancy as far as the overall subject of physics is concerned.  And naturally, my explorations would involve a camera and light.

When one pours hot liquid into a cup, a reaction happens causing some of the liquid to atomize when it hits the air, turning it into steam.  Tiny droplets of water rise from the cup, and, depending on the air currents and temperature in the room, those droplets are shaped into curls and waves and wisps.  I could watch them all day.  They are mesmerizing.  All of this begged the question: can I catch any of this action with my camera?  It is something I have always wanted to do, so why not?  I was somewhat successful (more work to do) but it was a great indoor project for a cold morning, with the bonus of being able to consume the finished product.  A nice column of steam is rising upward from the cup shown below, accompanied by a 1904 edition of Whittier's Complete Poems.  

a hot cup of something 3a hot cup of something 3

There was a lot of action on top of the coffee in this image.

a hot cup of somethinga hot cup of something


I was almost "burst shooting" to catch a curl at the top of a column here.  It is just visible on the "W".

a hot cup of something 2a hot cup of something 2

Finally, a close-up shot of the base droplets in action.

a hot cup of something 4a hot cup of something 4


The design of light on the left hand side of the mug in all of the shots was created with the help of a multi-sided, empty and clear glass that was just a bit taller than the mug.  

Enjoy your explorations of life, wherever they take you!

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]




Steve Immel(non-registered)
Sorry for the delay. We got in late Monday and Tuesday was a blur. You keep finding new subjects to explore with your camera. Kudos. Steam wafting from hot beverages is a worthy subject, one that bears more exploration. I seem to remember food shoots decades ago when the stylist used dry ice in the liquid to pump up the the so-called steam. The more pronounced the steam the more evocative the photograph according to me.
Wayne Gesterfield(non-registered)
Wonderful. I love this kind of photography.
Connie Taylor(non-registered)
Neil makes all science/complexity exciting and approachable. I want him to be President. When will your book, Photogrsphy Tipe for People in a Hurry be available. Love your tip about the light and glass vessel. The images were lovely and I swear smelled of coffe so I just made a cup.
The first shot is stupendously superior in composition, color, light and being in the right place at the right time - or rather, clicking at the perfect moment. I hope you will continue to photograph physics for us.
Love these Daryl!
No comments posted.

January February March April May June July August (2) September (4) October (4) November (4) December (5)