Planet Tozer: How He Did It

An old coat hanger bent into a wire loop and a good recipe for bubble mixture – some of the hi-tec essentials for producing great images
Our recent post on photographer Jason Tozer’s images of bubbles prompted a fair few calls of “how did he do that?” Well, we were in his studio on the day of the shoot and can reveal all here…

An old coat hanger bent into a wire loop and a good recipe for bubble mixture – some of the hi-tech essentials for producing great images

Our recent post on photographer Jason Tozer’s images of bubbles prompted a fair few calls of “how did he do that?” Well, we were in his studio on the day of the shoot and can reveal all here…




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The shoot came about after Sony approached Creative Review looking for a way in which to demon­strate the capabilities of its new Alpha 350 D-SLR camera. Having seen his wonderful images in last month’s Monograph, we suggested commiss­ioning photographer Jason Tozer to create a suite of images around the theme of bubbles, thus tying in with the overall campaign idea for the camera.

As Tozer mentioned in a reply to the comments on the initial post, despite the prevalence for filters and post effects in photography these days, his bubbles series was created completely in-camera.

While some of the final shots resembled vast gas planets, others – like the more amorphous blob shown above – seemed even further removed from the humble equipment Tozer used to bring his subjects into being: namely, washing up liquid and a coat hanger bent into a hoop.

“I looked online for bubble recipes and a bit of glycerine is apparently the key,” says Tozer. “Ten parts water, one part washing-up liquid and a little bit of glycerine. We also used distilled water as well because hard water isn’t so good.”

Tozer’s first experiments produced several close-ups of elongated bubble shapes. Poised in front of a black background, his assistant was charged with bringing the detergent-loaded hoop through the air in front of the camera. Only occasionally would the bubble pass by the correct position…

To achieve the more planet-like images, Tozer began by blowing through a straw into a plate of the solution and turning the camera on what formed on the near-side of the dish. He then used a lens cap wet with solution to achieve a single bubble shape to photograph.

Interestingly, Tozer found that as further bubbles were made from a particular batch of solution, less colours appeared on the surface. “The first bubble you make has loads of colour in it, when you make another couple they seem to have less colour in them,” he says. “The detergent seems to sink to the bottom of the bubbles, leaving the water behind, so you gradually get different images.”

[For a full explanation of the processes happening here, please see the comments below!]

For example:

As for the settings on the camera itself – Tozer kept it all to manual. “I was trying to get the highest shutter speed we could, with the lowest ASA, so the shots were less grainy,” he says. “When we got some beefier lights we were able to go down to about 100 and then 200 ASA.”

What seems most remarkable about Tozer’s shoot is how a seemingly transparent film of liquid actually revealed a whole multitude of colours when caught in mid-air and photographed. Because of this Tozer was able to play around with scale and perspective and create a fantastic series of otherworldy pictures. The full set can be seen on our Flickr photostream, here.

More of Tozer’s work can be seen at here for more details on the new Sony Alpha 350 D-SLR.


CR in Print
In our October print issue we have a major feature on the rise of Riso printing, celebrate the art of signwriting, examine the credentials of ‘Goodvertising’ and look back at the birth of D&AD. Rebecca Lynch reviews the Book of Books, a survey of 500 years of book design, Jeremy Leslie explains how the daily London 2012 magazine delivered all the news and stories of the Games and Michael Evamy explores website, offering “data-driven insights into logo design”. In addition to the issue this month, subscribers will receive a special 36-page supplement sponsored by Tag celebrating D&AD’s 50th with details of all those honoured with Lifetime Achievement awards plus pieces on this year’s Black Pencil and President’s Award-winners Derek Birdsall and Dan Wieden. And subscribers also receive Monograph which this month features Rian Hughes’ photographs of the unique lettering and illustration styles of British fairgrounds

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Monddi Design Agency