Pushing the Envelope ©Steve Chong

Tech Info

Pushing the Envelope

Camera: Sigma SD9
Lens: Sigma EX24-70mm F2.8 Macro
Film: X3F
Aperture: F6.7
Shutter: 1/250
Light: Natural Light, Two Flashes
Date: 09, November 2003
I've always been enthralled by the exquisite, ephemeral beauty of the soap bubbles. However, their graceful, care-free buoyancy belies a strength of great tenacity.

Passing them through the searing circle of inferno is a feat to test the limits of their delicate tenacity. And viola, they literally pass with flying colours, and emerged none the worse for wear from the aftermath of being licked by the flaming tongues.

I must say it really has been a while since I last have fun with bubbles.

"How hard is it to blow bubbles?" I asked.

However, when I tried blowing them for the shot; it almost derived me nuts to see they were wafting everywhere but in a straight manner! Absolutely recalcitrant! Luckily, Ai Ling was very excited when I asked her to help me with the shot. Despite the fact that she was helpful and cooperative and of course knows how to blow bubbles straight, the real barricade of the shot was however, lay in the techniques to build fire in the ring. I have tried numerous materials, including lighting up nylon cloth with kerosene, sadly this was a worst idea, the amount of smoke generated has almost darkens the ceiling of my kitchen, rather appalling I must say. After uncountable attempts searching for better material, I discovered oil and sack proved to be the best combination of my research, sort of going back to basics. They build slow but steady fire, exactly what I needed to enable Ai Ling to blow the bubbles comfortably.

I cut the sack into stripes and wrapped it around the ring. Then I placed a flash at 4:30 and another on camera at 11, light to be bounced from the wall. Black velvet was used as the background. Ai Ling would pose before the fire ring facing the window. Natural light is absolutely essential to introduce those wonderful rainbows on the bubbles. Ai LingĄ¯s brother lent a hand, his duty is to light up the fire ring. I reminded him to start from the side then continue from the bottom of the ring. On the count of 3, I asked Ai Ling to start blowing the bubbles at will while I keep firing the shutter. Thanks to the preview mode of digital camera, we have the chance to view the result during the interval after the fire extinguished.

2 hours and 37 shots later I got this image.

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