Sierra Castillo Team 3rd: Stackable Bubble on Christmas Lights

Sierra Castillo Team 3rd: Stackable Bubble on Christmas Lights

Team Members: Katie Gresh and David Leng

3rd Team Assignment: Stackable Bubbles



Flow visualization give insight to how flow phenomena operates in our surroundings. For this assignment, teams were tasked with photographing these phenomena. Team 2 consists of Sierra Castillo, David Leng, and Katie Gresh. The original plan for this assignment was to photograph fabrics flowing in the wind produced by a small fan. This apparatus was not working well for us, so we decided to experiment with some stackable bubbles provided by Katie Gresh. For my image, Christmas lights and fabrics were arranged at the bottom of our setup. We blew many bubbles and I waited until they had settled on these lights/fabrics. The imaged I captured is of one of these bubbles sticking to a bulb of the Christmas lights.


Our setup was very simple. A black poster board was used as a backdrop. On a lab desk, 2 strings of Christmas lights were arranged with Christmas colored fabrics. The photos were taken in the Integrated Teaching and Technology Lab (ITLL) at the University of Colorado Boulder. This lab has large windows which provided a lot of natural light, as well as soft overhead lighting. Figure 1 shows a schematic of the setup.


Figure 1: schematic of apparatus

Fluid Physics

The bubbles used for this experiment were not normal bubbles. They were Mr. Bubble’s Stackable Bubbles. If timed properly, one can actually catch these bubbles and they will not pop. Due to this, it is possible to stack the bubbles on top of each other, as seen in Figure 2 [2].


Figure 2: example of “stackable bubbles”

The team had some trouble determining the contents of the bubbles, as the packages are not labelled with ingredients. However, there are several do-it-yourself recipes to create a similar effect. One method involves mixing cornstarch with water and dish soap. Another method mixes glue and liquid starch. It is likely that the mixture in Mr. Bubble’s stackable bubbles is closer to the second method, as the solution smelled like glue during the cleanup process. The glue increases the surface tension of the bubble, which allows them to be touched without popping.

Another interesting aspect of these bubbles is the reflections and refractions of the light through them. Some of the reflections that you would expect to see on the left side of the image are actually seen on the right. The bubble appears to give a fish eye view of the lab. This is likely due to the bubble mimicking a translucent convex mirror [1]. The light paths follow similar lines as those shown in Figure 3. This would explain why the reflections appear to be flipped.


Figure 3: path lines of light through a bubble

Photographic Technique

The lab had ample lighting at the time, both natural from the large windows and from the soft overhead lighting. The Christmas lights used also provided lighting for the camera.

Camera Nikon D3200
Field of View ~3”
Distance: Obj to Lens ~6”
Focal Length 52 mm
ISO 1600
F-stop f/5.6
 Exposure Time 1/200 sec

The original and edited photographs are seen in Figure 3 and Figure 4 respectively.


Figure 4: original, unedited image


Figure 5: final, edited image


Overall, I am happy with the outcome of the team’s experiment. The bubbles were very fun to play with. If I had to change something about the image I would reduce the reflections of the lab on the bubble. Additionally, I would add more of the Christmas colors in the frame. More control of the lighting would help to control the reflections on the bubble. Also the image was a little dark and that would help with that. I like the soft lighting and the off black back ground. It gives the image a warm feeling of winter. I wish that I knew what the bubbles were made of to explore the physics further.


[1] “OPOD – Bubble Optics.” OPOD – Bubble Optics. Atmospheric Optics, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

[2] “Touchable Bubbles.” Touchable Bubbles Kids Novelty Toy | Australian Geographic Shop Online. Australian Geographic, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

Previous Post
David Leng Team 3rd
Next Post
Bateman-Team Third

16 Comments. Leave new

  • Michael Guenther
    Feb 21, 2018 11:35

    Interesting photo, there is a nice, warm, and homely aesthetic to the image. Could possibly benefit from more bubbles in the air.

  • Daniel Luber
    Dec 11, 2016 20:32

    Very cool reflections going on in this photo. The focus is really sharp and the photo is well resolved. I appreciate the festiveness of the photo aswell

  • Sean Harrison
    Dec 8, 2016 22:45

    The reflection in the bubble produces a nice effect. Possibly consider cropping just below the front bulb as the lower left background is a little distracting. Nice use of Christmas lights.

  • Daniel Baker
    Dec 7, 2016 12:21

    This image screams festivity. Although I think it would have been cooler if a light with a color was used such as red, blue, or green, it is still a great image. With this image, I can see the room in which it was taken. This does not take away from the image, nor does it really add anything to it, but it is something I found to be interesting. With the image being inverted on the bubble, it adds a level of surrealism to the photo, almost like something from a David Lynch film. This image is very nice.

  • Michael Waterhouse
    Dec 7, 2016 12:14

    Bubble is in great detail and focus. Well themed for this time of the season. I like how you captured the reflection of the lights off of the bubble. Great job.

  • Zachary Cymanski
    Dec 7, 2016 12:13

    The bubble on top of the light is a nice “Christmasy” touch. Focus is very good and the photo and i like the reflections on the bubble

  • Jason Savath
    Dec 7, 2016 12:12

    I really like how the bubble is clear and focused in the image. The christmas light helped create a unique image.

  • Mark Noel
    Dec 7, 2016 12:12

    Cool image ! I like the Christmas light. I wonder if you had cropped more if it would be less distracting.

  • Jeremy Parsons
    Dec 7, 2016 12:12

    This image is well-resolved and shows the details of the surface of the bubble well. You may consider cropping the left edge or altering the background to focus more on the bubble and reflections.

  • Jeremiah Chen
    Dec 7, 2016 12:12

    I think the post processing was nice, but I would’ve liked to see the bubble more.

  • Marco Gardi
    Dec 7, 2016 12:11

    You’ve captured some really interesting reflection patterns in your image. The holiday theme is great too!

  • Branden Goldenberg
    Dec 7, 2016 12:11

    Amazing focus in this image. I like the Christmas theme. The reflection in the bubble is interesting. It almost looks like another world inside of the bubble!

  • Daniel Bateman
    Dec 7, 2016 12:11

    cool image. The reflection really makes the image, shows some interesting optics. Good focus, and nicely blown out background.

  • Ryan Daniel
    Dec 7, 2016 12:11

    Reflection caught in the bubble is really neat, cool capture! The bubble resting on the Christmas light is a nice artistic touch.

  • Maxfield Scrimgeour
    Dec 7, 2016 12:10

    I like the inclusion of the light in the spirit of the holidays. Nice work with the image and the reflections in the bubble are really cool.

  • Kate Gresh
    Dec 7, 2016 12:10

    1. The image is artistically beautiful. The holiday theme is really nice.
    2. The physics are well shown.
    3. The photographic technique is good.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.