I had tried to take a rather different shot before this one, but I couldn’t get the lighting quite right for it so I looked around for something else to shoot. The statue alone looked a little bland so I lit an incense stick and wafted the smoke about a bit as I shot. It could almost look as if the smoke is being inhaled or exhaled in this one.
Canon 7D, EF 100mm f2.8 macro, 1/60 at f8, Nissin Di866 fitted with snoot.
I thought I was going to give the smoke photos a rest for a while, but then I thought it would be interesting to see what I could do with this censer.
I actually managed to get the lighting exactly as I wanted it, just partially revealing the censer and lighting up the smoke. Whether I’ve made the best of the composition is another thing entirely.
Canon 7D, EFS 15-85mm, 1/125 at f8.
The idea for this one came from my mate, Phil. Upon seeing one of my Project 365 shots recently he commented “subject has no funnel”. He’s a bit keen on his boats is Phil. The idea came into my head as soon as I read the comment. I’d give him a funnel alright, and a smoking one at that.
The only slight problem is that the plastic funnel really lit up and glowed when lit with the flash. Anyway, I think that’s the last of the smoke shots for my 365 for now, although I have plenty more to process when I feel like it.
Canon 7D, EF 35mm f2, 1/125 at f8.
Having sorted out the problems I was having with my wireless flash trigger a couple of nights ago , I wanted to try some more smoke shots. I took some with and some without props. I liked the way the smoke pooled up within this glass so I decided to make this one my photo of the day. Some blowing out of highlights in here, but I don’t think it ruins the shot. You need a lot of light to take this photos, firing about 80 shots off in rapid succession at full power my flash started to overheat :^)
Canon 7D, EFS 15-85 IS, 1/125 at f8, Nissin Di866 above and to the left, fitted with home made snoot.
A friend had challenged me to an “abstract photography” duel for the Easter Weekend. I’d been out shooting earlier in the day, but I failed to spot anything which I felt was suitably abstract. I did have an idea forming in my head though. I’ve always liked watching particles of dust and smoke when they are illuminated by a shaft of strong light. I thought there was potential there for an abstract photo and started to do a bit of research on the subject of capturing that kind of thing in a photograph.
There’s a lot out there on the Interwebs regarding smoke photography. The key elements to the techniques I saw being described were a black background and highly directional light. I found this blog entry both inspirational and informative. If you’re at all interested in the techniques and equipment used then make sure to watch the video towards the end of the page. The examples shown on that page will make my effort above seem meagre in the extreme.
Now, I have a reasonably good flash gun, but I certainly don’t have any kind of studio set up. I don’t have any backgrounds, I don’t have any lighting rig. I certainly don’t have a snoot. Or rather I didn’t have a snoot until just a few minutes before I took the photo at the top of this post.
What’s a snoot? Well, put very simply you can imagine it as a funnel for light. You fit it over a light source to make that light source more directional. This is how you emulate that shaft of light falling through a window and illuminating the smoke. Like anything else, these can be bought, at a price but I didn’t really want to hang around to buy one and I certainly didn’t want to spend much money to take this shot. How often am I likely to need a snoot if I don’t have a studio lighting rig? Probably not that often.
So I made myself a snoot. All I did was take a bit of black card and fold it around my flash gun. Thinking about it now then maybe black card wasn’t the best choice of material. Something with a reflective interior would have been better. Maybe I could make another one and line the card with some aluminium foil first? I’ll try that before my next attempt at this.
I needed a black background, but I don’t have any kind of photo backgrounds. So again I went for the cheap and cheerful option of just using another piece of black A4 card which my daughter happened to have in her “making kit”. I could have done with something a bit larger than A4, but needs must when an idea gets lodged in your head and you want to see how it works.
The last problem I had to contend with was producing a flash of light which didn’t illuminate the background. You want the background to be as black as possible. This way you can either use the plain black background in the final image, or you can invert the image and make the background white (as I did).
Now my flash gun will fire as a remote flash, but only as a “slave” unit. In other words I would have to use my on camera flash to trigger the remote flash. So, I could place my flash to one side of the smoke to get the lighting I needed, but in order to fire that flash my on camera flash would have to fire and thus light up that nice black background which I had gone to so much trouble not to illuminate by making my wonderful snoot.
What was to be done?
I was originally planning to shoot at 1/125th of a second at f16. The narrow aperture is required to get a reasonable depth of field and get as much of the smoke as possible in focus. The only thing I could think of was to go for a much longer exposure and trigger the remote flash manually.
So, I set up an incense stick on a little table and plonked my sheet of back card behind it. To the right of the incense stick I placed my flash gun, complete with it’s very low tech snoot – carefully aimed at where I thought the smoke would be. I set the camera on a tripod about 3 feet away, focussed manually on the tip of the incense stick and got to work.
In a completely still room the smoke rises straight up so it’s a good idea to give it a very gentle waft once in a while to try and create some interesting patterns. Holding something in the path of the smoke seems to work quite nicely too.
I ended up hand holding the flash gun to aim it at the smoke, this seemed to give me much better control. It also made it easier to fire the flash in time with my 1 second exposures.
Tonight I only really got as far as a “proof of concept”. All the same I’m pretty happy with one of the patterns I managed to create. Not much of what I did was “optimal”. Ideally I need a way to fire my flash remotely and a bigger backdrop – though I have to say that I think my snoot does the job very well (maybe even better with the aluminium foil modification). There is also a certain degree of satisfaction to be derived from “lashing something up” which actually works.
I’ll be returning to this technique. I like the possibilities. I’m sure there’s much more that I can do in post processing to add interest to the smoke. All I did for the example shown was to invert the image and then apply a magenta filter. The next step might be to have multiple colours in my smoke pattern.
I’ll need to take a lot more photos and pick out the patterns which I think have the most potential. It’s a bit like seeing shapes in clouds really.