Using one off-camera flash to "freeze" the motion of the smoke, we were able to capture some really cool shots. I don't think I will ever see a plume of smoke the same way again. As we shot these images, we were just amazed at the beauty of the patterns.
Here is a picture of the setup. I started by draping my black Westcott backdrop over a curtain rod. (I actually have their backdrop stands which I love - but was too lazy to use them.) I had one Canon 580EXII flash set up to the right of the smoke (being triggered by the new pocket wizard TT5). I wrapped the Honl flash modifier around the flash so that the light would not hit by lens or the backdrop. You might be wondering why there is a banana on the table. Well...I could not find anything to stick the incense into, so I grabbed a banana, poked the incense into the thing, and voila, an incense stand. I pre-focused the camera on the stick of incense, turned out the lights in the room, and using a flashlight to see the smoke patterns, I started shooting to get the right exposure settings (covering the flashlight each time).
Look closely at each of the patterns. They are so amazing.
Since the room was very still (after closing the door and turning off all the fans), I would wave my hands gently or blow slightly towards the smoke to give it movement.
I am not sure how I got this cool smoke curl at the top of this one, but I love it!
The blue color of the smoke was not something that I changed in Photoshop, it was a change to the white balance setting of the camera (set to Tungsten). The only modifications that I made in Photoshop were, erasing some of the specs of dust that were also illuminated and darkening the blacks to hide any imperfections in my lighting.
This one looks like it has repeated scrolls in it.
For this pattern, I had my son move the banana (incense holder) back and forth just a little bit to create the movement in the smoke.
It might be the result of breathing too much of this incense, but this last image sure looks like a genie rising out of the smoke, doesn't it? I want to take this image and add a genie bottle to the bottom but have not had the time yet.