Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ice Bubble Magic


Need a reason to venture out into the cold?
How about something that will fill you with a sense of wonder!

If you'd like to watch a mini Ice Age planet
form before your very eyes
scroll to the bottom of this post for the video.

If you want to create an Ice Bubble yourself,
continue reading for instructions :) 


First, you must be brave and head out into the cold.

  • Yes, the VERY cold.
  • It should be no warmer than 30 degrees Fahrenheit/-1 Celsius! The day I took the video it was 0 Fahrenheit/-17 Celsius.
  • So, #1 - dress warmly; hat, gloves, coat, slush pants if you have (just like your mother made you dress as a child) because you will be staying still and the cold creeps up on you when you're not moving.


Other conditions you will need:

  • Sunlight (for photos)
  • Little or no wind
  • Some snow or a soft-ish outdoor surface to blow the bubble on.


Supplies:

  • Bubble solution: 3 cups water, 1 cup liquid dish soap, 1/2 cup corn syrup (stir gently, do not shake to mix!)
  • A straw
  • Patience
  • Wonder



I suggest blowing your first bubbles just to watch and enjoy.
The first few are tricky. Don't be discouraged if they don't last long.
Keep practicing, blow very gently and adjust your technique until you get the hang of it.


For taking photos:

  • I use my Canon 6D with my favourite 100mm macro lens which allows me to catch the fine details of the ice crystals but really, these bubbles are so beautiful I think any camera you use will not let you down! Your phone camera will do very nicely too.
  • I often shoot in Automatic setting (or use Aperture Priority, depending on the light) with manual focus.
  • Manual focus is a must because the bubble and the ice crystals that form on it are constantly moving. The trouble you'll see in the video (which I filmed with my iPhone) is the ice crystals often begin to form on the far side, then when the crystals form on the front, the camera doesn't adjust its focus and the final image has a haze on it.
  • With manual focus you will focus first on the far side of the bubble and then adjust to focus on the front side (closest to you) as the ice crystals develop.


Bubble tips:

  • The temperature outside will play a role in the speed and quality of the bubbles you get.
  • The colder it is, the faster the ice crystals form, sometimes I barely have time to blow the bubble and pick up my camera before the whole bubble is completely frozen over. (Yes, in Montreal, where I live, it is often VERY cold and I just love it!)
  • It's nice to catch the ice crystals as they form with a lot of free space around them if you can.
  • Fiddle around with the blowing technique until you find what works for you.
  • I make my bubble solution in a mason jar and keep it indoors with a lid on it for the whole winter.
  • If possible, put the jar outside to cool down a bit while you get dressed for outside.
  • Find a spot to set up, somewhere facing the light with a flat surface you can blow the bubble onto. You should have somewhere to brace your camera arm so you can remain still (or set up a tripod.) I use a banister on my backyard deck.
  • It's important that there is almost no wind. The bubbles don't stand a chance in the wind and you will be eternally frustrated when they keep popping. If you have an outdoor shed with a window, going in there might be a good alternative for you.
  • To blow the bubbles, I dip the straw in the bubble solution and gently exhale, rather than blow like we do with summertime bubbles, about an inch over the place I want the bubble to land.
  • Depending on the temperature, wind and humidity, the bubbles can last anywhere from seconds to minutes. Either way, start snapping pictures as fast as you can. For a more stable, long-lasting bubble, it's best to blow a smaller sized bubble than a large one.
  • Experiment with positioning the camera toward the light to create contrast and bring out the details of the ice crystals. This was extremely difficult for me at the beginning and took a lot of turning the camera every which way before I figured it out. It's times like this that I'm happy cameras today are digital and I'm not paying for rolls of film :)

I do hope you get the chance to give it a try.
It's not every day you find something that fills you with such wonder!






4 comments:

  1. The video is extraordinary - almost surreal - lovely to watch the frozen fern garden grow.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Rosemary, It is indeed magical. I can imagine you like the cold! To play with nature and make so much beautiful images. In our windy, frost free aria we can only dream of doing such things. But maybe, on a rare winter day...... thanks for posting. It is gorgeous.
    Groetjes,
    Hetty

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rosemary amazing !!!!
    Here in the Netherlands, it is often not so cold and I've tried to blow bubbles. However, she splashes identical set before it hits the ground. I ehb bought real bubble but it does, but not always. You pictures are fantastic and I enjoyed your video. Wonderful to see the ice bubble :-)

    Kind regards, Helma

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for your kind words :)

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