Sunday, 24 October 2010

Brave New (Bubble) World

I've had a massive amount of fun this afternoon working on my Macro module. Inspired by pro-photographer Steve Hermitage's "Bubble Worlds" I set about creating my own....

Bubble World

The setup is really simple: a dish with very soapy water with black food dye added to it to get good colour contrast, a straw to blow bubbles in it, a flashgun and a macro lens.

The lighting was the hardest part, and it took me a few hours before I started getting the sort of thing I was looking for. The rainbow reflections are created by diffuse light, and Steve fired his flash through a soft box. I ran into difficulty with this because my Nikon SB600 can't be triggered off-camera without being slaved to the on-camera flash. The full frontal flash from the on-camera totally kills the rainbow reflections, so I had to use the SB600 on camera and angled to bounce off a diffuser. The problem this caused was that my bubbles were only lit from one side. The next time I do this I might try to rig up some reflectors. In addition to this I had to figure out the right combination of flash power/underexposure/aperture to get vibrant colours. It was frustrating because I could see it through the lens, I just couldn't capture it!

In the end I found a combination that worked with the setup. I blew hundreds of bubbles and had a whale of a time. I finally figured out the the most exciting bubble colour combinations come just when the bubble is getting ready to burst; the oil slides off the bubble surface into the liquid and then it pops. If you blow on the bubble with a straw it mixes the remaining oil with the black water and you get some gorgeous mixtures. The final image here was taken when there was virtually no oil left, just milliseconds before it popped.

A Bubble Moon perhaps?... Just before the bubble popped

In the end the battery ran out on my camera, if it wasn't for that I'd probably still be at it now. Grab some soapy water and a straw and give it a go! Although beware, huffing on bubbles with a straw does make you pretty light-headed.....

Sunday, 10 October 2010


I've finally moved onto a new module (I submitted the Race for Life pictures in the end and actually got quite reasonable feedback so was well chuffed). In fact I'm working on two simultaneously in the hopes of catching up...

The first I'm tackling covers building, structures and architecture. As part of the recommended reading I came across the work of husband and wife team Bernd and Hilla Becher (examples here, right & left).

I absolutely loved their photographic treatment of industrial subjects. These sorts of subject are the ones I am usually trying to exclude from my pictures; framing the shot to get rid of the pylon in my landscape shot for example.

How many times have you visited a new town or city, and only taken pictures of the 'nice bits'? I'm intrigued to what extent this warps our memories of the places we've seen, where we've (unconsciously or otherwise) edited out the ugly bits from our photographs. The Becher's show that beauty and intrigue can be found in 'ugly' industrial objects.

Living in Leven, I've got a lot of access to ugly objects.

Newsagent, Leven: my first attempt at mixing colour with black & white

I set out to capture some pictures inspired by the Becher's work. I also wanted to take some shots that intentionally take a no-holds-barred approach to the sights of Leven. I'm intentionally making it look as grim as possible.

Methil Power Station: this is the view that greets walkers on Leven's 'Promenade'. The power station is destined for demolition and a modern windfarm may be its replacement.

Later I might do a study where I try to make Leven look more like the tourist office would like you to believe. For now though, these photographs represent the exact opposite of the pictures I would usually take. It was a lot of fun.

All of these pictures were taken with our point-and-shoot compact and were part of a reconaissance mission to find cool locations to revisit with my SLR. I really like how some of these have turned out though. Just goes to show what a decent compact can do (with a little bit of tweaking post-processing).

Junkyard, Leven: I have no idea what they make here, but the wreckage in their yard makes for some interesting subjects.....

These pictures are heavily influenced by the Becher's work. I have no idea what this is (left), but it looks like some sort of Martian spaceship. It's one of the few images I tinted with Sepia instead of making it Black and White, again as a nod to the Bechers.

The close-up of the pipework (right) was taken through the fencing of the paint factory in Leven. It's definately a location I'll revisit. The junkyard shots however were taken in a very dodgy part of town, I don't think I'll be heading back there without backup...

There was a fantastic arched bridge over the river that bisects the industrial estate. It used to be white, and now it's more rust than anything else. I gave this a Sepia tint too for a nostalgic feel. Bridges Over Madison County this ain't...but it sure was interesting to look at.

The industrial estate in Leven is a deeply creepy place when you're all alone. Not the sort of place I really should have been on my own to be perfectly honest, but I get very distracted when I've got a camera in my hand. By the time I was starting to get creeped out I noticed this abandoned glove on a spiked fencepost and it reminded me of that classic horror movie shot of a hand reaching out from a freshly dug wasn't a very comforting thought to have at the time...

Abandoned; Leven.

And finally, it wasn't all creepy and dirty looking. I found some items that I thought, in their own way, were really quite beautiful....or at least I thought so....

Thanks to the Bechers, and a productive afternoon wandering around with a compact, I'm now really fired up about this module and can't wait to get my teeth stuck in....