Capturing a frozen bubble

Unsplash Untold #14 — The beauty of Mother Nature

Unsplash Photo: Aaron Burden (Download)

As Head of Curation on Unsplash I see a lot of photos - over 127,000 last year alone. For me personally, what makes a great photo is the ability to evoke a reaction from its viewer. And that’s exactly what the photo you see above, taken by Aaron Burden, did to me, on many levels.

‘Wow the detail is amazing’ followed by ‘Is that an etched bauble?’ followed by ‘Oh my it’s a bubble!’ ending with ‘How on earth did he capture this?’

One of the beautiful things about the Unsplash community is that people are always so willing to share ‘how tos’ and tips. So I reached out to Aaron to ask him some questions about his image, beginning with where he found the inspiration.

While on Instagram, I saw friends freezing bubbles. I think the first people that I saw doing it were @amystackhouse, @pamelagridley, and @vernerific. They all gave me some good advice, so I tried it, and it was fun. Inspiration is one of my favorite parts of the Instagram and Unsplash communities.

So how is it actually done?

I have had the best luck with temperatures of about 0-20 degrees with no wind. In my experience, if it’s too cold, they freeze to fast, but if it’s above 20, the only thing that freezes is me. I use regular bubbles from the store and add a little glycerin to keep them from popping.
The fun thing about frozen bubbles is that it doesn’t take a lot of equipment. I would recommend picking up a straw though to blow the bubbles where you want. I used to blow the bubbles and chase them like a crazy person until @vernerific posted a video about using a straw.
Honestly, I had a real hard time the first couple times that I tried it. The advice from Instagram friends was super helpful. I don’t think that I’ve mastered it yet, but I’ve learned the conditions that make them possible and I believe that the right conditions are most of the battle.
Unsplash Photo: Aaron Burden (Download)

I asked Aaron what camera, lens and settings he used to achieve the amazing level of detail.

I usually shoot with my Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark ii with my 60mm macro lens. I’ve also been able to capture them with my iPhone camera and with my Olloclip Lens Attachment. My Olympus probably gives me the best results, but I wanted to shoot with an iPhone to see if this was possible for anyone.
Left: Captured with iPhone and Olloclip lens attachment · Right: captured with iPhone · Photos by Aaron Burden
If you’re comfortable with it, I would recommend shooting with manual focus. Clear bubbles are a little difficult for auto-focus sometimes.

“Missed focus is a common problem when capturing frozen bubbles”

Photo : Aaron Burden
Unsplash Photo: Aaron Burden (Download)

Finally I asked Aaron what the response has been like from people who have seen his frozen bubble photos. He tells…

I think that it has been inspiring to a lot of people. I’m glad that I have been able to inspire others, the way others have inspired me. I’ve had quite a few people message me that they tried it.
I feel like frozen bubbles inspire people because there is a low barrier to entry. You really don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or to travel to an exotic place.
It’s just a fun winter project that you can experience with people in an online community or just with your kids. It definitely helps me get out and shoot on the cold winter days when I’d rather be sitting by a heater!

If you’d like to discover Aaron’s photography as he shares it, you can now follow Aaron on Unsplash and check out his website.