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Karl E. Deckart

Soap Bubble Gallery: Image Seven

German photographer and artist Karl E. Deckart is known for his thorough, precise, and beautiful work both in photography through the microscope and with macro camera systems. This gallery of interference photographs made with soap films is a testament to both Deckart's skill as a photographer and his understanding of the physical phenomena that surround our everyday lives. Presented below is soap bubble image number seven in small format. Click on the image to download a larger version.

Soap Bubbles

Macrophotography of thin soap films freely suspended on a 4 x 4-inch wire frame was conducted with a Linhof large-format bellows camera system utilizing 4 x 5-inch sheet film and imaged using an apo-macro Nikon large format Nikkor-AM ED 210 mm f-5.6 lens. To prepare the soap film, equal parts of water, glycerin, and dishwasher detergent are thoroughly mixed in a container until a solution containing evenly sized micelles is achieved. A freestanding film is formed by dipping the wire frame into the solution and withdrawing carefully to maintain an even film thickness and avoid disruption of material flow across the frame rails. After suspension, the film was illuminated by a reflected light source positioned a few degrees from the camera system. The light was passed through a diffusion screen to avoid bright spots and provide an even illumination across the field. No polarizers were employed in photomacrography of soap thin films. Image 1999 by Karl E. Deckart. All rights reserved.

Soaps made from animal fats and wood ashes have been used in textile cleaning and medicinal applications since antiquity. Writings of the Greek physician Galen mentioned soap as a medical agent that cleansed the body, although by the 2nd century AD, its use as a personal cleaning agent was a luxury reserved mostly for the wealthy. Early soap makers mixed wood or plant ash in boiling water, then dispersed scrapes of animal fat into the solution that was later left to cool and solidify. This practice was followed by European homemakers in the Middle Ages, who prepared soap primarily for laundry purposes. However, common use of cake soap is only a very recent convenience, being an innovation of the nineteenth century.

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