We’ve had a few days this winter with the right conditions to create a certain kind of magic. Cold temperatures and calm air allows the creation of soap bubbles that quickly freeze into solid orbs of frost. During the freezing process, they become something magical. View large!
Last night I spent a few hours experimenting with these. Some complex lighting was done from behind, using a narrow-beam flashlight and a Fresnel lens to place the light exactly where I wanted it. The bubble was blown just above this location and gently placed on the snow. Most of the time, bubbles will burst on impact unless you use a more hardy formula in their creation. The recipe used is:
6 parts water
2 parts liquid dish soap
1 part white corn syrup
It’s the corn syrup that thickens the bubble solution to withstand impact with the snow. It doesn’t work all the time, but when a snowflake lands intact, the game is on.
Freezing usually starts quickly, and there are two different scenarios you’re likely to encounter:
Warm bubble liquid: You can prolong the time you have to get the camera in the proper location by heating up the bubble solution in the microwave. This can give you a few extra much-needed seconds to get everything aligned, and it creates stable growth. In this scenario, the bubble will start to grow frost from the point of contact with the snow, and usually somewhere near the top of the bubble. These frost fronds will continue to grow until they reach, closing in the bubble.
Cold bubble fluid: If you’re using cold bubble fluid, right near the freezing point, you’re in for a show. Particles from your breath that are pushed inside the bubble will collide with the wall of the bubble, sometimes freezing on impact and creating nucleation points for frost. These swirl and grow around the freezing sphere almost like snowflakes, eventually freezing together. That’s what you’re seeing here. The freezing process usually has already begun by the time the snowflake has landed, and very little time is available to get the camera to the proper angle and focus point.
Like my snowflake images, this was shot entirely handheld. Speed is very important for such subjects, and a tripod only gets in the way. The entire bubble is frozen solid in a matter of seconds.
It’s amazing what falls from the sky, created by the randomness and beauty of nature… but it’s astounding what the right ingredients in the right order can create with the intent of creating something beautiful here on earth.
If you’d like to see more of my work with snowflakes, check out my book Sky Crystals (304pg hardcover) here: skycrystals.ca/book/ or my “The Snowflake” print, which embodies the beauty of sky-borne crystals in a way never before seen: skycrystals.ca/poster/