Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bubbles - my Nemesis

Sometimes you just got to realize the facts. You'll not always reach your goal, even how many times or how good you try. My attempt on shooting a simple bubble is an example on just that.

My previous bubble shot was a so-so shot, I think. I'm pleased with the lighting, but the shot itself was a little boring, even though I felt that I caught the bubble in the right moment. So, while I was waiting for my wife to get back home this evening, I wanted to kick it up a notch by blowing smoke into a same-looking bubble. "That's gonna be a killer shot!", I thought.

The reason I had to shoot it while my wife was out, was because she can't stand cigarette smoke. Therefore I had some time pressure, since I had to be finished within one hour. Also, I hadn't smoked in eight years, so I was a little anxious on how I would react. I was determined to only fill my mouth with smoke; without any exeption would I inhale.

I set up the lighting almost the same way I as did in the last bubble shot. Three second intervals, reflective umbrella on camera left, same lens and settings. The only difference was the backlighting. I reduced the power by two stops to get a low-key effect to emphasize the fantastic smoke bubble I was about to create....

I lit up a cigarette out on the porch, ran inside with smoke in my mouth, started the camera, assumed the position, counting the seconds for perfect timing and started blowing. These are the problems I ran into:

  1. I had to keep my breath for about 30-40 seconds after I "inhaled". It doesn't sound like much, but doing the things above at the same time in addition to the time pressure was a big challenge for me.
  2. It felt like the smoke was sort of pushing down my throat, which almost made me vomit every time. Remember, it was eight years since last time, and I was not used to this at all anymore.
  3. It looked like the hot smoke made the bubble break up much faster than without making it almost impossible to fill a bubble in the same size as the last bubble shot.
  4. Performing a nice and calm expiration of the smoke was very hard, since I was both out of breath, almost vomiting and trying to blow at just the right time.
  5. While blowing, a lot of smoke did not enter the bubble, but insted wrapping around both my face and bubble which literally contaminated the photos.
  6. The interval timer menu always turned off by the time I came running from the porch. I had to 15 keyclicks on the camera to start the timer with the smoke in my mouth.
  7. I only got one shot for each smoke expiration (That caused me to do a lot of running and lighting up a total of six cigarettes)
All these challenges came in addition to the pose and positioning, which alone was hard enough in the last bubble shot. So I just dropped the idea of getting the correct crop in camera and continued.

Here's a screen dump from Bridge, showing all the photos that were taken until my wife got back home:

Of all these 90 shots, I got ONE shot where the bubble actually shows filled with smoke. The straight-out-of-the-camara RAW file:

Problem is that it looks like I'm blowing into a condom... How charming is that? And look at that awful background. I wanted a red backdrop and that lousy brown-red blanket was the best I could find. My hand is so distracting behind that condom bubble that it takes the attention away from the bubble.

This meant only one thing: "TO THE PHOTOSHOP MOBILE!"

I played with a lot of effects in Photoshop: a lot of different crops, duotone, Orton, gaussian blur with overlay blending, BW conversion and grungy hard-contrast look. I ended up with a mix between the BW conversion and the hard-contrast look which is pretty much the same as the Contre-Jour Amour shot. It's even the same composition. Very imaginative, no?:)

The final version:

Bubbles are my Nemesis

The image is too dark, I think, but leaving it any brighter made it look dull. And the bubble looks even more like a condom. I guess the image has a certain feel to it, but that messed-up bubble ruins it for me.

This shot was a disaster, and I'm just fed up shooting bubbles for now. During previous photo shoots I've discovered that if you just shoot and never quit you'll get that perfect shot in the end. Unfortunately, that end never came. I really should have had an assistant that could operate the camera, eliminating a major challenge. Anyway, it's going to be a long time until I'm shooting bubbles again.

They are my Nemesis.


Dorothy said...

I have just gotten around to reading your adventures with bubbles. I have just stopped laughing at this post...I have to give you lots of credit for trying so many times but I probably would have stayed away from the smokes. I quit back in 2001 and would be terrified to even buy a pack of cigarettes now for fear of smoking again...even for a cool bubble/condom shot! DPS should give out awards for best would win every time! Also, congrats on coming in so high on Explore on!

zetson said...

Dorothy, thank you! I'm generally not a stubborn guy, but in photography I'm completely changed.

I've recieved some sort of award actally. Darren asked me recently if I wanted to write for the dPS blog! The same kind of stuff I write here. It's so nice to be recognized:)

I also quit in 2001 but I remember quitting because I just couldn't stand the smoke anymore. As planned, it didn't become a pleasant experience:)