Notes on Bubble Photography - pt1 The Bubbles
This builds on the excellent tutorial by Simon Palmer in which he showed how to shoot soap films in a flat plane http://www.ephotozine.com/article/photographing-children-s-play-bubbles-11785 .
I want to add to that some notes on how to shoot macro images of the detailed structure of soap bubbles plus how create shots which look like images of the surface of Gas Giant planets and Bubble Dome Cities as shown here:
The liquid I used was similar to that described by Simon being a mix of Fairy Liquid, Glycerine (from Boots) and tap water. The exact proportions don't seem to be critical but I was using around 5% each by volume of the additives and the rest being tap water (add the additives to the water and stir gently otherwise you end up with a mass of foam) This gives bubbles which are stable for 5 minutes+ even under the lights.
Bubble Blowing: this may seem simple job we can all blow bubbles, but a bit of technique helps for the best results. I used two bendy straws attached to each other for ease of access without disturbing either the glass container or the camera, blowing from where I was going to shoot (shutter activated via cable release).
For the "Bubble Structure" images I put the end of the straw close to the middle of the liquid and blew a gentle and steady stream of air keeping an eye on the size and number of bubbles (I found bubbles of around 1/4" to 1/2" were the easiest to photograph)
For the "Planets" I used a wide and shallow dish (about 4" diameter worked well for me), picked up a drop of the liquid to blow a single bubble to about 1" diameter on the surface of the liquid, let it stand for a few seconds to stabilise then carefully inserted the straw (make sure the end is still soapy else the bubble bursts) and inflated to bubble (blow very gently) to the full width of the dish and about 4"- 5" high.
For the "Bubble City" images I used a very clean shaving mirror, about 10" in diameter, on its side as the base, coated with a thin film of the bubble mix. Using the straw I picked up a small quantity of the mix from a separate container and dropping the liquid onto the mirror I blew the first bubble to about 2" diameter. Using the same technique I then carefully blew some additional bubbles alongside the first one so that they just touched, forming the membranes at the junction. The trick here is to try for consistent bubble size.. Once the first layer is formed it is then possible to add a second and third layer of bubbles in a similar manner
In each case, once the bubbles were formed I had around 5 minutes to set the focus, check exposure and composition and start shooting
pt 2 will deal with the lighting and techniques for shooting the images
[I have just spotted the work by a master in this "art" of creating bubble Planets, Jason Toser who has progressed it to an amazing degree (I knew I couldn't be the first).
Have a look at these: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/11/12/soap-bubbles-photographed-to-look-like-psychedelic-colored-planets-in-space/ (and I see there are many comments at the bottom about who really started this genre, I am but an egg!
His kit list is interesting:
"Tozer tells us that he uses a Hasselblad 503CW and a 135mm macro lens mounted on a set of extension bellows. The camera is equipped with a 65-megapixel PhaseOne digital back. He also made a huge 2×3-meter perspex dome for the lighting"