MACRO LIGHTPAINTING ON SOAP BUBBLES

A PERFECT DAYTIME-SETUP IF YOU HAVE A DARK STUDIO/ROOM AT HOME. IN THIS TUTORIAL I WILL HAVE A FOCUS ON MACRO LIGHTPAINTING, SHOT WITH SIMPLE BUT VERY EFFECTIVE TOOLS. THIS MIGHT TRIGGER YOUR CREATIVE SENSE DIRECTLY, SO IF YOU TRY THIS OUT TOO, LET ME KNOW WHAT RESULTS CAME OUT WITH YOUR OWN SETUP! 

 

SO FIRST OF ALL - HERE´S WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

-A CAMERA WITH MANUAL MODE AND AN EXTERNAL TRIGGER RC (CANON 7D, 18-135MM LENS USED BY THE AUTHOR)

-A TRIPOD

-A MACRO LENS OR MACRO ADAPTER-FILTERS (E.G. A MACRO ADAPTER-KIT FROM POLAROID, APROX. COSTS ARE €25.-, MOSTLY AVAILIBLE FOR ALL LENS-SIZES)

-LEDS OR EQUIVALENT LIGHTSOURC(ES)

-FLASH (IDEALLY WITH AN ADDITIONAL STROBE FUNCTION)

-CARDBOARD AND BLACK DUCKTAPE TO CREATE THE FLASHBOX-STENCIL-ADAPTER

-3 X THE SAME PRINTOUTS OF YOUR GRAPHICS ON OVERHEADFOIL (WORKS WITH TEXT, LOGOS, DRAWINGS, PATTERNS AND SELFMADE STENCILS)

-MILKFOIL OR BUTTERBREAD PAPER TO SOFTEN THE FLASHLIGHT
 

FOR THE BUBBLEBATH:
 

-100ML GLYCERINE (APROX. +/-€5.-GET IT FROM YOUR LOCAL PHARMACY)

-250ML DESTILLED WATER

-A SPOON FULL OF WASHPOWDER

-A STRAW

HOW TO START – FIRST CREATE THE STENCIL-ADAPTER FOR YOUR FLASH

TO CREATE THE DESIGNS FOR THE STENCIL-FLASH ON YOUR COMPUTER, FIRST CHECK THE DIMENSIONS OF YOUR FLASH AND ADAPT THIS IN YOUR LAYOUT ON A REGULAR DIN A4 PAGE.

LEAVE ENOUGH SPACE BETWEEN THE SINGLE LOGOS/WORDS AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A FULLSIZE BLACK BACKGROUND. REMEMBER - WHITE WON´T APPEAR ON THE PRINTOUT AND THE MORE WHITE YOU HAVE IN YOUR DESIGNS, THE MORE THE FLASH WILL BURNOUT YOUR PICTURE.
 

GO TO A LOCAL COPYSHOP AND PRINT OUT 3 TIMES THE SAME SHEET ON OVERHEAD-FOIL OR DO THIS AT HOME WITH YOUR PRINTER.

3 COPIES ARE ESSENTIAL -A STEP TO AVOID BURNOUTS IN YOUR COMPOSITION.

NOW CUT OUT THE SINGLE DESIGNS WITH A SCISSOR AND TAPE THEM ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. I SIMPLY FIXED EACH LAYER TO THE NEXT WITH TRANSPARENT TAPE. GRAB A CARDBOARD ABOUT 4CM HIGH AND BEND IT AROUND YOUR FLASH-TOP. CUT THE CARDBOARD OFF ON THE OVERLAP AND FIX IT SIMPLY WITH BLACK DUCKTAPE TO AVOID BREAKOUTS OF FLASHRAYS.

PUT THE STENCIL MIRRORED (ONLY ESSENTIAL FOR WORDS AND LOGOS) ON TOP OF THE BOX AND FIX IT WITH BLACK DUCKTAPE TO THE CARDBOARD, SO THE BOX CAN BE USED AS AN ADAPTED STENCIL-BOX ON TOP OF THE FLASH.

ONCE THIS IS DONE YOU CAN PUT THE BOX ON YOUR FLASH TO TEST THE INTENSITY OF YOUR LIGHTSOURCE.
 

NOW SEARCH FOR A TRANSPARENT GLASS-DISH IN YOUR KITCHEN. I FOUND A BLUE-TRANSPARENT BOWL AND SIMPLY FILLED IT WITH DESTILLED WATER AND 100ML OF GLYCERINE AND ADDED A SPOON OF WASHPOWDER. MIX IT SLOWLY SO IT ALL GETS ONE TRANSPARENT FLUID AGAIN.

NOW YOU ARE READY. ARE YOU?
 

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A DARK ROOM AND YOUR SETUP BOWL IS PLACED STABLE ON TOP OF A TOWEL, JUST IN CASE TO AVOID ANY UNWANTED ACCIDENT - THIS LIQUID IS VERY SLIPPERY AND WILL STICK EVERYWHERE.

PREPARE YOUR CAMERA WITH PUTTING ON THE MACRO-LENS OR MACRO-ADAPTER, PUT IT ON THE TRIPOD AND MAKE YOUR FIRST TEST OF CREATING BUBBLES WITH THE STRAW.

TRY OUT SOME-FOCUS SHOTS WITH WORKLIGHTS ON AND REMOVE THE AF ON YOUR CAMERA BEFORE YOU START THE REAL SESSION IN DARKNESS.

SOME GENERAL THOUGHTS INBETWEEN:

THE CLOSER YOU GET TO THE ACTUAL BUBBLEBATH, THE MORE DIFFICULT IT IS TO GET A GOOD AND SHARP IMAGE THAT INCLUDES MULTIPLE LIGHTSOURCES. SPECIALLY WHEN YOU SHOOT WITH A MACRO AND THE FLASHED STENCIL, THE PICTURE BECOMES QUICKLY BURNED OUT, SO USE THE MINIMUM OF ADDITIONAL LIGHTSOURCES. THE FOCUSPOINT IS MAINLY IN THE CENTER AND AS THE BUBBLES WON´T LAST FOREVER AND THEY ALSO MIGHT MOVE, YOU BETTER BE QUICK. THE FIRST SHOT WON´T BE THE PERFECT ONE, SOMETIMES IT´S ENOUGH TO REPEAT THE PROCEDURE OVER AND OVER UNTILL YOU´VE FOUND THE PERFECT PICTURE.


 

IN MY SHOOTINGS I´VE USED TWO DIFFERENT SETUPS, ONE WITHOUT MACRO-LENS AND A 30 X 20CM LONG CASSEROLE DISH AND THE OTHER ONE WITH A BLUE TRANSPARENT GLASS DISH TO HAVE THE OPTION OF INDIRECT LIGHTING FROM THE SIDE ASWELL.

Pic above: The essentials

Pic above: Selfmade stencil-flashbox

Flash manually adapted depending on the stencils brightness

Polaroid offers a great Close-up macro lens-adapter-kit with 4 different lenses

READY TO SHOOT! (MAKE SURE YOU CHECK OUT THE SINGLE CAMERA-SETTINGS OF THE FOLLWOING PICTURES TO HAVE A COMPARISON)

TIP: YOU CAN STIPULATE HOW MANY BIG AND SMALL BUBBLES WILL APPEAR WITH SOME TRYOUTS. WHEN YOU WANT BUBBLES TO DISAPPEAR, JUST BLOW AIR INTO THE BUBBLE UNTILL IT „EXPLODES“. BE AWARE THAT THIS POPPING CAN PRODUCE TINY LIQUID DOTS ON YOUR LENS WHICH WILL CAUSE ADDITIONAL BOKEH EFFECTS WITHIN YOUR PICTURE.

IN THE FIRST TEST I PLACED MY CAMERA ABOUT 25CM DISTANCE WITH FULL ZOOM-IN FACING THE BUBBLEBATH. I TRIED OUT VARIOUS METHODS WHICH CREATED DIFFERENT EFFECTS:

 

1.WITH A PIXELSTICK THAT WAS HORIZONTALLY MOVED ABOUT 5 CM ABOVE OF THE BUBBLES, FIRING A GRAPHIC COLOR-FADE-PATTERN.

2. A BLINKING LED-STRIP HIDDEN BEHIND THE CASSEROLE DISH SO ONLY THE REFLECTIONS APPEARED IN THE BUBBLES.

 

NOW YOUR TOOL SHOULD BE READY TO ENTER PERFORMANCE MODE.

DEPENDING ON THE EXPOSURE TIME AND THE CHOSEN MODE OF YOUR TORCH, THE BLADE WILL CREATE SMOOTH (TORCH ON), INTERRUPTED TRAILS (TORCH IN SOS MODE) OR HARD STROBOSCOPICS OF ITS OUTLINES.  FOR EACH MODE I´VE ADDED TWO PICTURES SO YOU CAN COMPARE THE DIFFERENT RESULTS - ADDITIONAL YOU CAN PUT COLORFOILS BETWEEN ADAPTER AND TORCH TO CREATE VARIATIONS OF THE BLADE-TRAILS LIKE IN THE VERY LAST PICTURE.

THE SECOND SETUP WAS PERFECT FOR MACRO-CLOSEUPS WITH A PURE FOCUS ON SINGLE PARTS OF THE BUBBLEBATH.

I´VE PLACED MY CAMERA ON A LOW TRIPOD AROUND 10CM AWAY FROM THE BUBBLEBATH AND A BIT HIGHER THAN THE DISH. UPFRONT I MOUNTED A POLAROID 10X MACRO ADAPTER ONTO MY 18-135MM LENS AND SET THE CAMERA ON MANUAL MODE WITH THE ACTIVATED TRIGGER ON THE REMOTECONTROL.

THE EXPOSURE-TIME WAS SET BETWEEN 1,5 SEC UP TO 8 SEC, THIS CAN BE ADJUSTED MANUALLY DEPENDING ON THE TIME YOU NEED TO CREATE YOUR VISION.

FOR THE ABC I FLASHED THE STENCILS FROM ABOUT 2 CM AWAY DIRECTLY FROM KIND OF THE LENS-SIDE-ANGLE INTO THE BUBBLES. THE F SETTING HAD TO BE VERY HIGH (F29) TO AVOID BURNOUTS, AS THE STENCIL HAD LOTS OF WHITE IN IT.

I ALSO USED A SECOND LED-TORCH THAT WAS PLACED BESIDES THE DISH AND GAVE A BLUE SHINING GLOW ON THE BUBBLES FROM UNDERNEATH WITHOUT CAUSING TOO MUCH BRIGHTNESS.

TIP: TRY OUT VARIATIONS LIKE SHOOTING IN MONOCHROME AND CHANGE THE CONTRASTSETTINGS OF YOUR RAW FILE. USE BLINKING LIGHT FOR STATIC SIDEEFFECTS AND RECHECK THE FOCUSPOINT FLUENTLY. WORK WITH CLEAR PARTS AND DIFFERENT BUBBLESIZES.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE STAYS ALWAYS THE SAME - HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR VERY OWN MACRO LIGHTPAINTING EXPERIENCE!

Pic left: Distance of your handheld devices to the setup / right Pic: Indirect LED light from the transparent side creates glossy unsharp edges on lower bubbles

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F7,1 – 1,00s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@69mmshot with a red bike-LED as lightsource. Depending on its blinking-modes your LED can create very different looks of lighttrails.

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F5,6 – 2,50s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@21mm

Shot with a pixelstick as lightsource moved horizontal 5cm above the bubblebath

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F9 – 2,50s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@75mm

Shot with a Logo-stencil, flash set on strobe mode.

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F9 – 2,50s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@25mm

Shot with a Logo-stencil, flash set on strobe mode, focus in the front

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F6,3 – 4,00s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@33mm

Shot with a Logo-stencil, flash set on strobe mode, focus in the center.

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F7,1 – 5s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@26mm

Shot with a single flashed black & white (transparent) stencil, flash softened with milky white foil

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F6,3 – 4,00s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@22mm

Shot with a typo-stencil, flash set on strobe mode, focus itop right

SHOT ON CANON 7D, F29 – 2,50s – ISO 100 – 18-135mm lens@41mm

Shot with a single flashed stencil