Monday, July 19, 2010

Photographing smoke - Too much fun!

As many of you know, last week I decided to try photographing water droplets with some create reflections. I had so much fun doing this (with my son by my side) that it was time for a new challenge. This time, I decided to try capturing the beauty of smoke. So...of we went...to the store to buy sticks of incense.


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.

7 comments:

sue cable said...

They are beautiful and are giving me a few ideas to paint. I think the last one definitely has a female figure in it.

michael wright said...

I see the genie but it looks sad.

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Craig Colvin said...

I love photographing smoke, so many interesting patterns. It's been a while since I have done it. You've inspired me to pull out my incense and do some more.

A couple of suggestions for variations. I like using two lights with colored gels, if you point one at the bottom of the smoke and another at the top you get a 3 color rainbow effect which looks really cool. Another is to invert the image in Photoshop. Having black smoke on a white background can be very pleasing.

-- Craig

Jeff Cable said...

I will have to try the two light setup. Maybe tomorrow. :)

Guenter F. said...

beautiful smoke fotographes. I do like it, and I'll try to reproduce your work. Thank you for showing.
Greetings from Germany,
Guenter