Though Richard Heeks first caught the world's attention when he captured the exact moment when a bubble bursts (see Reflection Perfect, immediately below), you'd be surprised to find out that the Huddersfield, UK-based photographer actually got into photographing soap bubbles for a completely different reason. Inspired by a scene in the movie Blade Runner, where there's a close-up shot of the human eye with fire reflected on the pupil and iris, Heeks decided he wanted to try his hand at photographing reflections in the eyes. One day, however, that all changed. He just so happened to blow soap bubbles and noticed how strangely beautiful the reflections appeared. “I got kind of obsessed with trying to photograph the reflections and trying all kinds of different bubble mixtures and photography techniques,” he tells us.
For Reflection Perfection, Heeks prides himself in not using any electronic devices to time the popping. He took a few thousand shots before he could get that one – mid-burst, in focus and in a pretty shade of blue. “It was really exciting to see the photograph on the back of the camera. I knew I'd created something beautiful,” he says.
It's this self-professed obsession with bubbles that keeps the PhD student continually pushing himself in this field. He's used a special bubble mixture (called Zubbles), shot bubbles inside bubbles, created macro close-ups of soap film, and has even stuck needles in them to show that suspenseful moment when a needle penetrates its surface.
Looking through all of his photos, it's still his bubble reflections that make us stand back in awe. If you look closely, you can see Heeks in the middle of every photograph. While in some, he simply shoots bubbles with his patio door open, capturing breathtaking landscapes right outside his door, in still others, he manages to capture bubbles as they fly right over his head, creating a near unbelievable, non-Photoshopped panoramic view. “I found a shaded tree to get the all-important dark background,” he writes on Flickr. “Nature provides!”
When asked what tips he could give on bubble photography, Heeks shared this:
“A really important tip is to have a dark background behind the bubble, because the background brings out the color of the bubble. A bright background, by contrast, makes the bubble look transparent. Another tip is to blow a few bubbles before taking the photograph. The first bubbles to come off the bubble wand are really wet, which produces a thick film to the bubble. Different film thicknesses create different colors, with the thinner films being more vibrant blues and yellows. I love the blues and pinks that come with a thin film. A bright sunny day also makes for beautiful light patterns in the bubble, because the sun can create bright spots and lines. You should be careful with the sunlight though, because the spots are very bright and could reflect into your eyes.”