I’ve had a bit of a quiet spell here on Creative Splurges as of late. I’ve been burying myself in processing the thousands (literally) of images I’ve taken over the last month, as well as writing up my backlog of images that still dates back several months. The difficulty I face is getting the balance right between spending my time editing photographs, and posting them. It seems I’ve gone too far in one direction as of late; it’s been almost two weeks since my last post, far too long if you ask me. Anyway, time to fix that.
On my mother-in-law’s birthday back in August, my wife and her sisters and their children all came along for a birthday meal. And as it was a family event full of kids and people, I of course took my camera.
I managed to get a few really great shots of people at the restaurant and at home – the best of those, however, have joined the portraits pool for later.
A little later in the day, however, some of us ended up out in the garden playing with bubbles. Obviously there were some adults – two to make the bubbles, and me to photograph them. No-one was supervising any of us; slightly disturbing when the kids were all under six, the two adults were the sort to play with bubbles for their own amusement, and then there was me, like a wildlife photographer not wanting to interfere with the subjects.
The first apparent grown-up was the man in the picture above: my brother-in-law, along with his daughter Alayna. I’ve introduced you to them before, earlier this year in my first portraits post. Since then, I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing about with portrait-style photography (I use the term ‘portraits’ to apply to almost any reasonably close-up shot of a person, I don’t care what the technical definition says), and have been improving a fair amount.
The main thing that sets this set of images apart from any of the other portraits photos I’ve taken in the past is the fact that just about every one of these shots was taken using fill flash. At the time, I had no idea why the fill flash was working when it hadn’t on previous occasions. Now, however, I’ve been on a flash training course and learnt that by default, when you use a flashgun the shutter speed of the camera is restricted to a top speed of 1/250th of a second, which in cases of bright light can result in overexposed images – but on this day, it was a bit darker, and so even with a slightly increased ISO the images were turning out pretty well.
Alongside Matt and Alayna, my nephew George was also out there with us.
Oh well. You’ll see what he looks like later. My other niece – George’s sister – was out there as well, but she can be a bit shy at times so didn’t end up in many photographs.
The other so-called grownup was a family friend called Lewis.
Of course, the real stars of the show were the bubbles, which looked great in the light, especially when enhanced by the flash.
One of the things that constantly perplexed me about photographing the kids (of all ages) playing with bubbles is how the autofocus on my camera seemed to prefer focussing on the bubbles rather than the people. This is good, in the sense that that’s what I was aiming for, but in photographs like this next one, you’d have thought the camera would struggle to lock on to the bubbles and focus on George instead:
That said, when I wanted to focus on a child rather than a bubble, that seemed to work too.
Whilst we were playing outside, family dog Cindy decided she wanted to get through the fence and join in the fun.
I’m pleased with how the shots of the bubbles have come out. They contain such wonderful colours with great reflections. I suspect this was also helped by the fill flash.
At some point, the kids decided it would be fun to try to catch the bubbles in the blue bucket George was wearing earlier. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good idea, because if you managed to capture every bubble then you should be able to reuse the liquid to make more bubbles, right?
Unfortunately, Alayna was hampered by the fact that the bucket was as big as she was.
Meanwhile, Cindy was continuing to try to get under the fence.
Cindy, bless her, is a lovely dog, but not that bright. Not at all. Her current logic here is, ‘I can see through the fence, so I must be able to fit through it’. The tortoise my family had when I was growing up had a similar problem during his frequent attempts to escape.
Anyway, back to the bubbles. On only one occasion did I get close enough that the flash began to get a bit powerful (this was before I learnt how to turn down the power of the flashgun), which resulted in this next shot:
The effect isn’t that strong, but you can see the light from the flash is overpowering the natural light of the sun (which is behind Alayna) and casting its own shadows.
Lewis, meanwhile, was working on blowing bubbles as big as he could, which meant ones about as big as the kids.
As you can see, the light is behind the subjects, making for interesting results sometimes. I like the way Lewis’ head disappears into the sky in the image above.
If you’re wondering how he got on with that bubble, well, his success level was about on par with Cindy this time.
I love the way that you can see the tiny remains of the just burst bubble.
Matt, too, was now aiming blow a big one. If you’ll excuse the expression.
As I said before, the backlighting on the subjects made for visually appealing shots. I really love the lighting on this next show of Lewis.
Even better, I now know that this shot would have looked quite a bit worse without the fill flash, which is working here to fill in the detail on the side of Lewis’ face that is towards the camera.
As you can see, it wasn’t just the kids that were amazed by the bubbles.
Of course, Alayna really liked the bubbles, but that soon led to over-enthusiasm and the death of a bubble.
Meanwhile, Lewis’ attempt to create a big bubble had resulted in something resembling a mushroom cloud.
Still, he persevered.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, we move on to a very special section of this post. Just in case you were having trouble identifying the bubbles, my niece will now help highlight them in a segment I like to call, Alayna Points at Bubbles™.
(that shot is some of the most determined pointing I have ever seen)
Thank you, Alayna, for a helpful and informative guide.
(I would like to note, often when I group images like that, they’ve come from all over the place, chronologically speaking. Not in this instance, these shots were all taken concurrently during a frenzied bout of bubble-pointing)
At this point is would also like to point out that Lewis is the sort of person to wear smart shoes to play with bubbles.
Presently the sunlight glinting through the trees caught my eye, and I decided to try getting some light stars. by closing up the aperture.
It was a bit of a mixed bag of success; the stars came out pretty well, especially on the bubbles themselves, but the exposure was a bit low and I’ve had to boost the darker areas of the shot to show George and Lewis a bit better. Shooting straight into the light has also highlighted the dirty state of my lens, where bursting bubbles had splattered and made a mess during the afternoon.
This next bubble is perhaps the most colourful of the set; the detail reflected in it reminds me of van Gogh’s Starry Night.
In case you’d noticed the +1.0 exposure bias on this shot, let me explain: I was using it when playing about with the ‘star’ shots above to brighten up the subjects in the foreground, and had forgotten to set it back. However, as the camera was restricted to a 1/250th of a second exposure due to the presence of the flash, it made no real practical difference to the exposure length or the end result. Changing back settings I’ve played about with is something I really need to remember to do, because I often forget and end up screwing up shots.
Fortunately, continuing to shoot with an incorrect exposure bias didn’t cost me anything, including this rather wonderful shot:
This next image is, I’m pretty sure, almost entirely out of focus, however I like it.
It would have been better if some of it was in focus, of course.
After this, Lewis continued to blow bubbles.
Much like the earlier shot, I enjoy the almost blown-out background in this photo. It is almost too much – I’m sure for some, it is too much – but that’s what I like about the image.
You might have noticed that at times I’ve used a tilted frame in this set. It’s something I definitely seem to be using more often. Sometimes I suspect I go too far with the tilt, but if I did, you’d tell me, right?
I love the light coming off of the leaves in the background in this shot, and Lewis’ reflection in the bubble in the top left of the frame.
I actually don’t think the tilt is too much in that shot, it feels natural as it follows the line of Lew’s arm. I think I may have gone a little far in the next photo, however.
As you can see, in these last two shots I was struggling with overexposure, because I was pushing the exposure compensation all the way down the -3.33 and then -4.0 respectively. I didn’t realise, of course, that it was making no difference due to the aforementioned 1/250th limit when using the flash.
I’m really, really pleased with how these shots came out. It was my first time using fill flash for any duration, and it helped make the shots. I love the composition of a lot of them. If I ever manage to get into a photography studio, remind me to bring some bubbles with me.
In many ways, this post is a warmup to my forthcoming portraits posts. It’s been a while since I showcased my photographs of friends and family (February, in fact) and it seems like almost since then I’ve been talking about releasing another. Over that time I’ve been practising on both myself and anyone else who’ll let me, and building up a collection of images that now numbers over one hundred, which will be released at some point in the future as a series of posts.