Burst - Varina Patel

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Photography is all about capturing a moment in time. Sometimes, we use shutter speed as long as several minutes, and sometimes we need something much faster. In order to capture this bizarre image, I used a shutter speed of just 1/2500 of a second!

What is this? It is an abstract image taken just as a bubble burst – in the boiling “mud pots” of Yellowstone National Park.

How do you create an image like this one?

  • Find the right location. In this case, the bubbles were forming in the same location over and over again – if they appear randomly, it can be difficult to capture one at just the right moment.
  • Set you focus in advance.Once you know where the bubble is most likely to appear, focus your lens at that location and disable the auto-focus. Now your lens is set correctly, and you can concentrate on getting the shot.
  • Take some test shots. You need to decide what aperture and DOF you need to use. Choose a shutter speed fast enough to completely freeze the motion – in this case, 1/2500 sec. I chose an aperture of 5.6 in order to get sufficient depth of field. Then, I adjusted my ISO until my exposure was correct.
  • Be sure to check your Histogram! Because of all that bright white mud, I had to manually overexpose the shot (~ 1.5 stops) to get the image nice and bright. But I don’t want to end up with blown highlights! A quick check of the histogram told me that my settings were just right.

On the day I took this shot, there was a light overcast sky, which helped to minimize blown highlight on the wet surfaces and – and to keep the shadows soft.

And now, all you have to do is wait… and click away. To be honest, it was a lot of fun to capture these images. Varina and I, and our students, spent a couple of hours taking 100s of shots of the bubbles…After all, even grown ups like to play with mud! (But don’t actually play IN this mud – it’s HOT!)

I processed the shot with low contrast, and cloned out a few distracting shadows in the smooth mud behind and I had my shot.

The same technique can be applied to capture other subjects in nature – such as a hummingbird that returns to the same feeder, insects visiting a pollen-rich flower, and water droplets falling in the same spot.

Here is an photography by Varina that was produced using similar technique.

Burst - Varina Patel

4 replies
  1. Todd
    Todd says:

    So often I read your guides or descriptions and think “golly, why didn’t I think of that?” I learned on film, and although you can push it a bit to change the iso, you had to do the whole roll or spend time and risk scratching the film to separate out the shots you wanted to push. Plus I was never that organized! The ability to select an appropriate speed and f-stop, then adjust the iso to the situation is simple and brilliant. I can’t believe I never thought to do this! Too stuck in my ways to see one more advantage of modern equipment! Thank you very much ;-)

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