ARTICLE

Robert Lösch masters the art of splatter paint photography

Red and white paint being thrown through the air onto a grey sheet.
Austrian artist and sports photographer Robert Lösch developed his live action splatter paint technique for a live demonstration with Canon at a photography show in Salzburg, Austria. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro lens at 1/125 sec, f/5.6 and ISO400. © Robert Lösch

Austrian photographer Robert Lösch discovered a new way to express his artistic talents when he turned the lens on his own Jackson Pollock-inspired splatter paintings to create a unique 'live action' photo series. Created with a Canon EOS R, Canon tilt-shift lenses, acrylic paint and some creative flair, the resulting images are works of art in their own right.

"I wanted to create interesting paintings, but I also wanted to analyse, document and describe the creative process," explains Robert, who is better known for his motorsports photography. "I didn't choose this technique over water droplet photography just because I wanted a painting; I chose it because the two final images – the painting and the photograph – unite to demonstrate our understanding of space and time."

A Canon EOS R on a tripod is directed at a paint-splatter canvas on the floor. The room is covered in plastic sheeting.
Robert practised his technique at home before demonstrating it in front of a live audience, throwing the paint at a light barrier to trigger the camera and the flash. © Robert Lösch
A canvas on the floor covered in splatters of red, black and white paint.
Robert's first attempt at live action splatter painting. To perfect his technique he experimented with different surfaces, targeting the paint at a flat canvas and a pile of small wooden blocks. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro lens at 1/100 sec, f/4.5 and ISO800. © Robert Lösch

An action-inspired concept

When Robert was approached by Canon to speak to professional photographers at Fotografen Clubbing Salzburg in 2019, he decided he would combine his passion for painting and action photography with a concept he calls 'live action splatter paint photography'.

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"I'm used to taking action photos, so I wanted to try to capture that action in a painting," he says. "What I find very interesting in sports photography is that you can't plan the perfect shot – you have to react. Similarly, you can plan what to paint or you can compose a picture, but there is always a certain amount of uncertainty – especially when you're splattering paint."

Before taking his idea to a live audience, Robert tested his splatter painting concept at home. "I covered nearly my whole living room with painter's foil material and then used soup cans – a little homage to Andy Warhol – as a monopod for the light barrier," he says. He diluted the acrylic paint so it splattered with the consistency of milk, forming large streams and droplets.

"First I think, where do I want to splatter the paint? That's where I position the light barrier and then I aim the paint at it. The light barrier is connected to the camera and when the paint breaks through the barrier, the camera is triggered at the same time as the flash. I was very glad that I tried it at home first because it took 10 or more attempts to get the light barrier and the camera set up correctly. There was quite a lot of trial and error."

A splash of red paint is splattered with black and white paint.
Using tilt-shift lenses enabled Robert to add an extra dimension to his images. "When I am not shooting the surface at a right-angle, I have a very small focus area," explains Robert. "That's when I need the tilt-shift lens, because I can tilt the focal plane." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro lens at 1/125 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Robert Lösch
Photographer Robert Lösch with his Canon kit.
The technique combines Robert's passion for painting and action photography – used to shooting fast-paced motorsports, he wanted to demonstrate how important it is for a photographer to be able to react quickly to a situation.
A selection of glass jars with red contents.

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The right equipment for an artist's vision

Robert used Canon Speedlite camera flashes and a Canon EOS R with two tilt-shift lenses – a Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro and a Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro – perhaps obvious choices for a photographer who studied architecture for 14 years. "I started out as an architectural photographer, so I began shooting with tilt-shift lenses," he says. "I thought tilt-shift lenses can't only be good for architecture – that wouldn't make any sense. I used them for videos and macro shoots, not attaching the lens to the camera but holding it some distance away for special effects. I like testing products to their limits. Tilt-shift lenses are always on my mind – I like using them for everything, from portraits to landscapes."

Tilt-shift lenses bring an added dynamism to Robert's work, enabling him to play with depth of field and add an extra dimension to his action-packed images. "When I'm splattering the paint on a flat surface such as canvas, I can never shoot directly at a right-angle so that everything is in focus," he says. "I use tilt-shift lenses because I always have to position the camera at a different angle to the canvas. The result is that the splatters are more dynamic and there is more depth and dimension in the picture.

"When splattering paint on objects for the first time, I used the Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro lens because I can get very close and see what's happening in detail. When I'm splattering on canvas, I also like the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens, or the Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens. The 45mm is older, but I like it."

Falling wooden blocks covered in red paint, with droplets flying through the air.
Pairing Canon Speedlite camera flashes with fast shutter speeds allowed Robert to freeze paint droplets mid-splatter. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 6D Mark II) with a Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro lens at 1/125 sec, f/4 and ISO100 (plus two Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RTs and a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT). © Robert Lösch

Using the EOS R System

"The choice of camera was absolutely clear from the beginning," says Robert. "There are a lot of cameras with flip screens, but the vari-angle screen on the Canon EOS R has a high resolution and great dynamic range." Robert tethers his camera to a computer so he can see what he's doing on a monitor, but he can't always see that screen when he's adjusting the canvas, the light barrier, the lights and throwing paint – and that's when he needs the camera screen.

"Tethered shooting works extremely well with the EOS Utility software," he explains. "I really love the setup, especially for shooting in front of a live audience."

A tower of wooden blocks covered in dripping red, black and white paint.
The small wooden blocks add perspective and dynamism to Robert's final images. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro lens at 1/100 sec, f/4 and ISO100 (plus two Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RTs and a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT). © Robert Lösch

EOS Utility, which is included in the initial software setup for your EOS camera, allows you to operate your camera remotely from your computer, using a USB cable or via Wi-Fi. "The Wi-Fi setup means you can switch positions – you're not fixed on the spot with your camera – so you can show people a lot more," explains Robert. "What's cool about the EOS Utility software is that the secure connection to your computer means you can show the audience what's happening live on screen. Your pictures are immediately transferred to your computer, so you can zoom in to explain what's important. That's a really great benefit."

Teaming the Canon EOS R with EF lenses using the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R has been seamless, says Robert. "I use all three of the Canon adapters equally, but what's interesting about the Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R is that you can use one filter for all your EF and EF-S lenses – even a fisheye lens, which you normally can't put a filter in front of. That's pretty interesting for architectural and landscape photography because when you are shooting during the day, people are always running in front of your camera, and it's difficult to put an ND filter in front of something like the Canon TS-E 17mm f/1.4L lens, so this adapter is quite useful."

Kirjoittaja Lorna Dockerill


Robert Lösch's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

The Canon EOS R.

Camera

Canon EOS R

Full-frame mirrorless camera that opens up new creative opportunities for photographers and filmmakers. "The choice of camera was absolutely clear from the beginning," says Robert. "There are a lot of cameras with flip screens, but the vari-angle screen on the Canon EOS R has a high resolution and great dynamic range."

Lenses

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro

Refine your vision with an outstanding 90mm tilt-and-shift lens offering perspective control for beautiful portraits and product images. "Tilt-shift lenses are always on my mind – I like using them for everything, from portraits to landscapes," says Robert.

Accessories

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