Thursday, October 16, 2008

The bubble resurrection

I've been literally living in a bubble the last week. All I can think about it getting a bubble shot that I'm at least satisfied with. This is the third blog entry about me shooting a bubble, almost like the You suck at Photoshop series. I think the videos are hilarious, and I love how the main character is slowly loosing his mind. Just like me with the bubbles.

In my previous post I promised I would never shoot another bubble shot again. But that was yesterday. Today I felt I was in a better mood and I didn't have to worry about smoking or thinking about the bubble assignment at dPS, which had closed by the time of shooting. I had carte blanche and no time pressure. I wanted to do a silhouette shot of the soap bubbles. I hadn't succeeded with this in an earlier photo shoot, but I suspected it had to do with the background being a little to dark and poor lighting.

This time I wasn't going to shoot it at home, which lead to a fantastic  discovery. In a locker room I found a 100cm x 70cm cardboard with an intense green color. Ordinary people apparently regard this as "trash", since it was ready for the waste bin. Photographers however, see a background! I brought it the "studio" and hung it on the wall with tape. I also put a Speedlight SB-600 on a tripod and put it in front of the cardboard.

In the photo above you can see how I have twisted the flash head so that it points on the background but still the optical trigger sensor is pointing at the camera.

I sat the camera in portrait orientation on a tripod and locked the focus by focusing on a floorlamp that I had placed about 50 cm in front of the camera lens. Then I sat the lamp so that that it wasn't in the field of view. By doing this I could see where the point of focus was, by dragging an imaginary line from the lamp parallel with the camera's focus plane. On the photo below you can see the floorlamp on the left side, the camera tripod and the backlight strobe.

The setup was finished. I did a couple of test shots to adjust the exposure. I wanted a pretty fast shutter to freeze the bubbles and a medium aperture to have a little bit of playroom in the DOF. These are the settings I ended up with:

Backlight strobe: 1/64 power, 24mm zoom
Camera exposure: 1/125 @ f/5.6 ISO 200
Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF
Camera: Nikon D300

Instead of using that time consuming interval timer shot mode on the D300, I thought a five second self-timer would be sufficient since I wasn't going to be in the photo, but instead stand next to the camera while blowing the bubbles.

I brought up my new bottle of soap bubbles and stood right next to the camera on the right side. I pressed the shutter button and prepared myself for the blowing. I wanted most of the bubbles to be in the imaginary zone created by the floor lamp when the camera took the picture. That was easier than I thought. When two seconds remained I started blowing a calm and steady flow of small bubbles. For most of the shots, there were hardly any bubbles in the frame. I shot about ten shots in total and the photo below is the one I'm most happy with. This is the straight-out-of-the-camera version (RAW) turned back to landscape orientation:

I realized I had to crop it a little to remove the black area in the lower right corner. In Photoshop I didn't do much. I only duplicated the layer and added a gaussian blur by 6 px and changed the layer's opacity to 12%. That gave me a little more greens without destroying the gradients. Using the saturation slider caused just that.

The result is called:

Amobeas going into the light

Amoebas going into the light

Finally I'm happy with a bubble shot! I think the main problem in the previous bubble shots was that I was too caught up in shooting it as a selfportrait. A selfportrait is hard enough to do exactly the way you want, and doing activities in addition makes it very challenging.

But tonight I can go to bed and just let my dreams take away my bubble thoughts. Tomorrow will be a new day, and I can start thinking about other photo projects that do not include soapy water filled with air....

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