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Where there’s smoke… | From where I stand...

This weeks post is a continuation in the Concept Creation series that I have been working on.

For those of you who are new to the blog you can check out the previous post HERE.

Before I start I would like to extend a special thanks to friend and fellow photog Nick Bicanic who was a great help during this shoot. You can check Nick out at http://www.nickbicanic.com.

For this shoot I decided I wanted to photograph SMOKE! I have seen images like these in the past and have always found that the have a hypnotic effect on me. They are so interesting and organic that I had to give it a try.

The above is an example of one of the images from the shoot.

The balance of the images can be viewed on the FWIS Flickr group page HERE.

Here is a list of what we used to shoot these images:

  1. Backdrop. In this case I used black cloth but anything black would work the same as long as it is not reflective (ie: paper/bristol board)
  2. Incense. We used both the stick and cone varieties and found that the cones offered the best results but I would recommend giving them both a try.
  3. Lights. These shots were lit with 2 Canon 580EX II Speedlites each at 90 degrees, and triggered with Pocket Wizards. Now it is by no means a requirement that you use speedlites for your shots, we had them so we tried them. Really any light source will work and I can say that a constant light source may have made things a bit easier. The only thing you will have to watch is that you don’t light the background!
  4. Tripod. This is a must for a shoot like this. Here’s why…the smoke has a mind of it’s own. Even the slightest movement disturbs the air around the smoke which is useful to manipulate the smoke for more interesting shots, but can make keeping everything in focus difficult.

Here’s how we did it:

Once we had everything set up we had to determine what the optimal exposure settings would be. There were a few issues to consider. Test shots revealed that focus was going to be difficult. I settled on f14, 1/100 sec. at ISO 500 for the most part. This aperture afforded me suitable depth of field to ensure that the smoke would be in focus.

In order to grab focus we held up a target inline with the incense cone and used the live view function to ensure that the focus was on.

Then it was time to shoot!

TIPS:

There are a few things that you can do with the smoke to make the shots look more interesting. One of them is to use your finger (or if you have someone who can help you use their finger) and gently disrupt the smoke stream. As it settles out it will whip and curl in the most unusual ways.

Also, you can change the color of the smoke by either adjusting your white balance (in camera or in post) or using colored gels on the lights.

Experiment, play around and have fun!

If you would like to share your own images with the FWIS crowd feel free to add them to the flickr page or email them to me at qanda@sjr-photo.com and I will add them here!

Thanks for reading,

SJR

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2 Responses to Where there’s smoke…

  1. Lee Brown says:

    Thanks for the write-up Steve. I appreciate the insight. I think shots like this can make great design elements for print and video using layer blending modes in Photoshop. Cool!

  2. sjr-photo says:

    Hey Lee, thanks for the comment! I had taken these with that in mind, I also have some video that I will be using for an upcoming project. Super excited! Thanks for reading!

    SJR

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