Every underwater photographer has his „thing“ and a certain way they get comfortable with shooting subjects. For most photographers and when it comes to macro, it’s the black background. For me, it’s Bokeh and shooting with an open aperture. I never get bored of this technique and the creamy background but in order to add a bit more color to my pictures, I thought I’d try another more creative approach.
Now, the idea is not new at all and if you’re searching for „creative Bokeh“ on the web, you’ll get a lot of great results. In all those images, the idea is to create a (colorful) background with „bubbles“. A lot of people say that when it comes to „Soap Bubble Bokeh“, you either love it or hate it. For me, it’s just a different way of shooting and something new to try out.
But how to get to results like the ones in this blog? As usual, there’s different ways of achieving the effect. The most professional, sophisticated but also most expensive way to achieve „Soap Bubble Bokeh“ is with the help of the Trioplan lens, manufactured by Meyer Optik Görlitz. If you don’t have 1,500 Euros to spare, you can go for the DIY version . All you need is nail polish, glitter and a few cheap household objects.
Or if you’re lucky like me, you happen to have a sheet of hologram paper handy which one of the guests decided to leave behind – thank you Andrea 🙂 All I had to do is pin that sheet on to my slate and off I went on my first „Bubble Bokeh“ experiment. If you have a crafting shop nearby, look for some paper with a little bit more subtle colors. I think shades of pink or blue would probably work best.
The biggest challenge is probably to find a subject which is stationary (so start with nudibranchs for example) and with a „clean“ background. Think about as if you would be able to get a nice black background – then you will also have success with a Bubble Bokeh background. If there’s any objects visible behind the subject, you will not end up with a full background of „bubbles“.
Second challenge is where to position your slate, you’ll have to work out the ideal distance from your camera but also your subject. If you’re too far away, the „bubbles“ will look like sharp color circles – as a matter of taste you might like that. I prefer the rather soft, soapy bubbles and to achieve those you’ll have to move close up to your subject. Check out and compare the three images below which I took only moving the distance from the camera to the subject, the slate and Eneloop battery for demonstration stayed in the same place.
Camera settings: like in any other Bokeh shot, you’ll have to open up your aperture. I used f2.8 on my Panasonic GH4 mirror less camera. I went fast on my shutter speed, 1/250 and ISO 200. My two Inon Z-240s were set to lowest output and I still had to pull them all the way back to not overexpose the image.
I didn’t find the positioning of the strobe to be that crucial, however like in any underwater shot, you’ll really have to shot up and get as low as possible with your camera. If you’re shooting on eye level or slightly from the top, all you’ll get is the reflection of the hologram paper – so this needs a bit of practice. However, already after a few dives you should be able to shoot macro with this cool disco effect!