I belong to a large photography club in Albuquerque called the Enchanted Lens Camera Club. The club has several hundred people and has a lot of speakers, trips and other activities. One of the things the club does is encourage individual members to form smaller groups for the purpose of developing individual portfolios each year. The portfolio groups meet from the fall until the following spring. Members work on their individual portfolios with input and suggestions from the rest of their group. Portfolios are twelve or fewer images with an accompanying artist statement. At the end of the club year (usually in June) all of the individual groups get together and each participating photographer shows their portfolio to the entire club membership.

 

This year was the first time I participated in a portfolio group. The experience was a lot more fun than I originally thought it would be. I wanted to do a portfolio on something that would stretch my normal artistic range. I chose to do my portfolio on Ethereal Flowers. I have on occasion done high key and soft focus flowers but that is not my normal style. Usually I rely on full dynamic range and rich, saturated colors. For this portfolio I used a mix of older images that I completely reworked with different post processing techniques and new images taken specifically with the portfolio project in mind.

 

The images in the final portfolio is are shown below. I hope you enjoy them. I am already thinking about possible subjects for next year’s portfolio.

 

Cheers,

 

Mike

 

 

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Soap Bubbles

I have been photographing soap bubbles in my studio on many occasions for more than ten years now.  Like some other types of photography, such as refractographs and wave reflections, there is a bit of a treasure hunt quality to photographing them. Their geometry is continually changing as they mature and finally pop. The interference patterns on their surface change even more quickly. With the COVID restrictions this year I have done some more soap bubble shots in the last couple of months.

It is the geometry and the interference patterns that make bubbles so interesting.  Soap bubbles always assume the shape with the smallest possible surface area for a given volume. This means single bubbles form spheres. In a plane two bubbles meet as circles intersecting at a line. For more than two bubbles in a plane the bubbles will meet in groups of three with all angles at the intersections being  120 degrees. This means they form hexagons (just like honey combs).

In three dimensions the same principle of minimum surface area for a given volume applies. Two bubbles will meet at a common circle with the angle being 120 degrees. As with the planer case we can see from experiment that bubbles always meet as triples of lines with all angles being 120 degrees. Interestingly, while the geometry has been know for thousands of years, even the simplest planer case was not proved mathematically until 1993 and the proof for three or more bubbles in space is still open.

Thin-film interference is a natural phenomenon in which light waves reflected by the upper and lower surfaces of a thin transparent film will interfere with each other. Certain wavelengths (colors) are intensified while others are reduced depending on the thickness and index of refraction of the film. This constructive or destructive interference produces narrow reflection or transmission bandwidths. The observed colors are rarely separate wavelengths but a mixture of various wavelengths. Thus, the colors observed are rarely those of the rainbow, but rather browns, golds, turquoises, teals, bright blues, purples, and magentas.

I have shot bubbles using many different  set-ups in the studio. My favorite set-up uses four sheets of translucent Plexiglas about 2 ft. x 2 ft. to form a shooting tunnel. The rear of the tunnel was closed off with a sheet of black mat board. A spray can lid is placed in the tunnel and filled with bubble solution. The camera with a macro lens was placed in front of the tunnel and focused on the front edge of the spray can top. I have used various combinations of flash units underneath, above and to the sides of the tunnel along with gels and colored mat board to get different effects. This type of set-up gives the largest possible range of results.

I have tried many other set-ups shooting either a single bubble, multiple bubbles or a bubble film. The images created can be very striking. The whole process is fascinating to me since you never can tell what kind of pattern you will get or how it will change with time.

Cheers,

Mike Stoy

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Silverleaf Nightshade

We live in the village of Placitas, New Mexico which is about twenty minutes north of Albuquerque. Our house is on the north side of the Sandia Mountains at 5,400 ft. in the upper Sonoran ecosystem. Although most people think of the desert as being sand dunes and cactus very few of the desert regions of the world are actually like that. The area we live in has lots of low Juniper, and Pinion trees along with many other desert plants including some cactus and yucca species and quite a few wildflowers.

Palmer Penstemon

Tulip Prickly Pear Cactus

Trumpet Gilia

Desert Willow

 

 

 

 

 

 

The development our house is in has a nice walking path along side the roads and in the springtime, if there is some rainfall, there are an amazing number of wildflowers that bloom here. I always like taking wildflower photos but this year with the COVID-19 stay-at-home order here in New Mexico I have spent a lot more time around the neighborhood and taking flower photos than in most years.

Broom Dalea

Red-whisker Clammyweed

Yellowspine Thistle

Devil’s Club Cactus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None of the flowers around here are particularly large. Certainly nothing like the Rhododenrons that we had in Seattle. The largest ones are some of the cactus flowers which can be several inches across. A lot of the photos I take of flowers here end up being pretty tight macro shots. I have a 150mm Sigma macro lens that I really love. It has a larger stand-off distance than the more common 90mm or 105mm macro lenses. That doesn’t make any particular difference with wildflower photos but it is really helpful when taking photos of butterflies, lizards ad the like. I use extension tubes on the lens a lot for the wildflowers around here to get enough magnification to fill the frame on the smaller ones.

Common Beehive Cactus

Wooly Prairie Clover

Threadleaf Groundsel

Tamarisk

Spider on James’ Holdback

Blanket Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately the most of the wildflowers are fading now that the warmer and drier weather of June is here so I’ll have to find other things to take photos of.

Mike

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A type of photography that I have become fond of in the last few years is refractographs. These images are created using a camera without a lens on the front of it. First you need a really dark room since any stray light can muddy up the image. Next you need a piece of glass or some other transparent material. In my experience thin, high quality glass works best. I have been using the bottom of crystal wine glasses. The glass is fixed in place with a light stand and clamp or something similar. Then a small bright point of light is set up about  ten feet away from the glass with the light shining on the glass at about a forty five degree angle. I am using a bright LED flashlight with a piece of aluminum foil over the front of the light. I poke a very small hole in the foil with a needle. Do not use a laser since it could damage the camera sensor.  Finally the camera is placed on a tripod very close to the glass.

 

If you turn off all the lights except the flashlight and turn on live view on the camera you will see a pattern of light appear on the image sensor. The light from the flashlight is refracted through the front of the glass, part of the light is then reflected off the rear surface of the glass then refracted again as it bounces toward the camera. It takes a lot of experimentation with position of the glass and the camera to find interesting patterns. Since there is not very much light the exposure will typically be fairly long. Most of the time I end up between two and six seconds. These patterns will initially be white. In order to get color into the images I take small pieces of colored plastic, called gel filters, from my macro flash heads and hold them in front of the camera between the glass and the sensor.

The images created can be very striking. There is also a bit of a treasure hunt quality to the process since you never can tell what kind of pattern any given piece of glass will create.

Cheers,

 

Mike Stoy

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