I’m completely enamored by Tom Falconer’s gorgeous bubble photography, and he was nice enough to share his tips and tricks with us. Tom is a Tahoe resident, so he’s blessed by beautiful surroundings and cold temps that make shots like the one above possible. When I asked about shooting frozen bubbles, he said: “Frozen bubbles are easier to shoot than regular ones. Once it freezes, it just sits there. But floating bubbles in the wild are unpredictable and almost always tricky to photograph sharply.” Check out this shot of a frozen bubble popping slowly:
The caption for this shot reads: “Bubbles get a bit rubbery when they freeze, so when they pop it happens really slow. It was around 15-20 Â°F and this bubble took about two minutes to freeze. When it’s colder they freeze really fast and will shatter more like glass. This bubble took about fifteen minutes to disintegrate.”
The way Tom captures reflections in the bubbles is truly notable as well: I had to ask if he used a special bubble mixture, and here’s his formula and advice:
“Bubble mix from the toy store works alright but tends to be a bit inconsistent. This recipe is a pretty typical mix that works well for me.
1 ounce Classic Dawn dishwashing liquid Make sure it is non ultra. The ultra has additives that make it less ideal for bubbles. 8 ounces water Some people prefer to use distilled water. Tap water works fine unless unless it is particularly hard. Warm water will make it easier to blend the ingredients together. 1 tablespoon glycerine This helps make the bubble walls slightly thicker which will make the bubbles last longer, and be more colorful. You can find it at most drug stores.
Just like in any other aspect of photography, light is everything when it comes to shooting bubbles. Our eyes can isolate a bubble quite easily, but translating that into a decent photo can be challenging. A dark background will really help make the bubble stand out. To get a brightly lit bubble, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in direct sunlight, in fact direct sunlight, if it is too high will make the bubble appear to be very clear with weak colors and reflections. A bubble in shade, reflecting a sunlit landscape will stand out the best.
As for camera settings, you’ll probably need a DSLR. A point and shoot won’t give you enough control over depth of field and probably won’t focus quick enough. Most DSLRs with multiple focus points will try to focus on the nearest object in the frame, so auto-focus is your friend. However if you cannot get enough contrast between the bubble and the background, the camera probably won’t find it. Using appropriate lenses, focal lengths, and apertures will help to blur the background, making the bubble stand out better in the photographs.
Atmospheric conditions are extremely important as well. Even the slightest breeze will have you chasing the bubbles, making it almost impossible to get a decent shot. Early mornings are generally the best time of day to shoot. The wind is typically at is calmest. The sun will be low, giving you nice light. And humidity tends to be a bit higher. Heat and low humidity cause the water in the bubble walls to evaporate quicker, making them pop, so you want to avoid those conditions.
For frozen bubbles I usually wait until it is (at the warmest) 10 below freezing (22 F) and even at that temp they will take a few minutes to freeze. Again it needs to be extremely calm, because you’ll need to blow the bubble then catch it on the wand or some kind of wet surface and wait for it to freeze. As it freezes the thick swirls in the bubble will stop moving, and little fingers of ice crystals will creep across the surface. They don’t freeze into something that will shatter, they tend to be somewhat rubbery and will eventually collapse on itself.
Finally be prepared to be persistent and patient. You probably won’t nail it with your first shot. A free floating bubble in even the calmest of conditions is still moving unpredictably and will defy your efforts to get a decent, sharp shot. But keep trying, experimenting, and shooting and you will eventually be rewarded.”
Thanks Tom! Check out all of Tom’s stunning photography (bubbles and beyond) on his Flickr stream.