How to Make and Photograph Stunning Frozen Soap Bubbles

January 15, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

close up photograph of a soap bubble freezing
Photo credit: Paul VanDerWerf/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It is really not that hard to do.

I am sure you remember playing outside and blowing bubbles as a kid.  It was and still is a lot of fun — especially trying to get them as big as possible!  But did you know that having fun with bubbles is not just limited to the warmer seasons?  When it is cold enough outside, you can create something quite beautiful with your bubbles.

The thing about bubbles is that they try to minimize their surface area — that’s why no matter what shape a bubble starts as, it will always revert to a sphere.  Why?  Because a sphere gives you the most amount of enclosed air for the least amount of surface area.  This means bubbles always want to be spheres.

Microscopically, the soap molecules that form the bubble are strongly attracted to one another, and want to get as close together as possible.  This causes the surface area to shrink until the air inside of the bubble pushes out strongly enough to stop it from getting any smaller.

Bubbles also have some very pretty colors.  While the mixture of soap and water that makes the bubble is pretty much transparent, when this liquid is in the form of a thin film, we get lovely streaks of color.  

SEE ALSO: Snowflakes Are Not as Unique as We Thought

Why?  Because light behaves like a wave and reflects off both the inner and the outer surfaces of the bubble resulting in what is called an interference phenomena.  This means that if the light waves reflected off the inner and outer surfaces are in the same phase, we see color.  However, if they don’t, we see less color or they even cancel each other out.

So what makes frozen soap bubbles so stunning?  Well, in the cold of winter, bubbles will freeze faster than they pop — which leads to some incredibly beautiful photo opportunities as the bubbles become frosted in gorgeous patterns.  And amazingly, they are not that hard to make.

You can even try it at home if you happen to live in a region where temperatures plunge to at least minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-22 degrees Celsius).  All you need is a standard children’s bubble liquid and warm clothing.  Given the right conditions, the bubbles can last up to 20 minutes in their frozen state.

Now, if you don’t want to weather the elements, there is a way to do this without having to go outdoors.  All you need is a plate coated it in the bubble solution.  Then, gently blow a bubble over the plate keeping the bubble connected to your blower.  Gently place the bubble down on the plate and once it settles, remove your bubble blower.  Place this plate very gently in the freezer and check on it in about 30 minutes.  Voila!  You should have a beautiful and delicate frozen bubble.

Now, get your camera ready and take some photos!

Take a look at this 30-second video, shot in Calgary, Canada, showing how stunning these bubbles can really be!


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