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Monday, January 12, 2015

Shooting Frosty Bubbles

The first couple weeks of January 2015 have been cold here in ENC. With all the cold air in place it provides a great opportunity to shoot the frosty, frozen and frigid subject of winter in particular frosty bubbles.

Frosty "full moon"

Last winter was my initial attempt to photograph these delicate and intricate subjects. As with many photographers I got my inspiration from seeing another photographer's pictures of frozen bubbles, and decided to go out and give it a try. Shooting floating bubbles proven to be quite a challenge. You can read about my first attempt at here.

So this time I went for another setup stationary bubbles on a frozen surface. I talked about what conditions you need to shoot frosty bubbles in my previous blog post. Now I will discuss the setup for stationary bubbles. Last January the morning temp dipped to a very frigid 4 degrees F above zero, which is ideal for bubbles to quickly freeze. 

This morning it was cold(16 degrees F), but much warmer than last year. With the “milder” temperatures getting a bubble to freeze in mid-air was much less likely. 

When I first researched how to make frozen bubbles, the information talked more about how to make the bubble solution than the technique of shooting them. What is critical is the air temperatures. It has to be well below freezing, but from my experience you don't need the single digits. One article mentioned a temperature range of 9-12 degrees F. However, today I shot all the bubbles when it was 17 degrees F(at the start), and by the time I finished about 45 minutes later, it was 21 degrees F.

The bubble solution I used was store bought. You can make your own with this recipe:

3 cups water
1 cup liquid dishwashing detergent
1/2 cup white corn syrup 
Adding corn syrup makes a much stronger bubble that is able to live long enough to be frozen.

I blew bubbles using the plastic wand that came with the bubble solution. I aimed it so that the bubbles would land(some did) on the lid of a plastic garbage container. The lid was covered with frost so it made an excellent surface for the bubbles to land. Plus it was the ideal height to shoot the bubbles without having to do it on the ground.

No every bubble landed where I wanted it...some even popped upon landing so it took several tries. Once a bubble landed I waited for about a 30 seconds or so for it to begin to freeze. In the meantime I setup the camera and got my settings ready. There's really no proper method, just blow some bubbles, wait, point the camera at the angle you want then click the shutter.

Frosty bubble in B&W
1/160s f/16 @ 85mm ISO 100
Here are some tips on how to photograph the bubbles:

~ I find using a zoom lens works well. For closeups, use a macro lens or the macro setting on your zoom lens if you have one. At close distances focusing is critical so using a tripod is very important. It allows you to use a slower shutter speed while keeping the focus points sharp. Remember you'll be shooting in the early morning when the light is dim and the temps the coldest.

~ Try different F-stops. This will provide a varied range of focus or depth of field. For a bokeh effect shoot with small F-numbers. 

Frosty bubble with bokeh background
1/400s f/7 @ 85mm ISO 200

~ For stationary bubbles, pick a dark surface and background. It will give more contrast to the scene than a light colored one. For floating bubbles(need much colder temps) shooting a bubble against a blue sky works well. Using a polarize filter will darken the sky.

Floating bubble shot against the sky 
used circular polarizer filter

~ Keep at it and take plenty of photos. Some will not turn out, but a few might just be golden.

Frozen golden bubble with omni lighting
1/800s f/5 @ 59mm ISO 100

The key points to keep in mind if you want to try your hand at photographing frosty bubbles:

The colder the better, but it doesn't have to be near zero to get good results. It does have to be below 25 degrees F to have any hope of getting the frosty effect. For stationary bubbles a very cold, frozen surface will cause them to freeze quicker and less likely to pop when they land.

No wind... it needs to be dead calm. Wind, even a slight breeze, will quickly carry your floating treasure away or drive it into the ground.

Don't be late. Sunrise is typically the coldest time and the wind is still. Waiting until about a ½ hour to an hour after sunrise the light will be decent and no wind(not always). The photos for this blog were taken from 7:55 am to 8:40 am.


Light is the first element of creation

1 comment:

Jim Fowler said...

What a neat experiment! Great blog, KT. I can hardly wait for future additions.

Jim Fowler, Greenville, SC

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