In response to my recent smoke photoblog there have been a number of people asking me about my smoke photos. Many of you know I have some pretty high end gear but I will show set ups using both strobes as well as ordinary halogen task lamps from Ikea.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are prone to respiratory difficulties you may not want to try this. I do not have any respiratory difficulties and yet I found the smoke from the incense quite irritating.
I used a variety of tools for the smoke images. Below is a picture of them They include 2 high intensity halogen task lamps from Ikea, foam core board with clamps functioning as stands, a cup, incense...I used the cone type since it fit inside the cup and a lighter. Of course you also need a camera...I used my HS10 for the smoke images.
For the more advanced method and for those who may have access to flash-guns or strobes I used 2 of those one fitted with a snoot which is simply a tube, store bought or Do It Yourself which fits over the end of the flash-gun or strobe to focus a narrow beam of light into the smoke...but more on that later.
I will start with the simpler method for those who do not have more sophisticated gear. The image below was created using an HS10, black foam core for a background, clamps or some other method of securing the foam core and 2 $10 high intensity halogen flexible task lamps from Ikea or something like them. The important thing with this kind of light is high intensity and the ability to focus the beams of light where you want them. The Ikea lights are really good for this. I used two of them but for $10 I would even be tempted to get one or two more.
Exposure details: Camera: HS10 manual mode – Exposure: 1/125 second shutter speed – @ f/3.6 – ISO 800
The first thing you want to do is a general set-up. This set-up will not likely be the final as you will probably make adjustments depending on the results. Below is the general set up that I started with. I placed the black foam core approximately 3 feet from the camera lens which was set on a tri-pod. I placed the cup approximately 1.5 feet in front of the black foam core...so about mid-way between it and the camera. I placed one lamp to the left of the cup so that it illuminated the left side and slightly to the front of the cup. I placed the other lamp to the right and behind the cup aiming it up so that it would illuminate the smoke.
HINT: Have a box or something that you can use to place the light on which will be illuminating the smoke if needed. You may want it higher and possibly shining more downward onto the smoke. All this will come down to experimentation really. The joy of digital is you are free to experiment without dread of a wasted frame of film.
Here is the general set-up:
Once I got the general set up sorted I lit the incense and prepared to shoot.
This was the final set-up which worked for the final image:
For the more advanced I will show you how to do this using strobes like this one:
Exposure details: Camera: HS10 manual mode – Exposure: 1/160 second shutter speed – @ f/8 – ISO 100 flash(es) fired
Here is the set up I used:
The flashes were set to be remote "slave" units which the camera's on-board flash set to fire.
The strobe on the left was set to 1/32 power and shielded by a piece of black foam core to prevent it's light from spilling onto the black background. I also bounced some of the light off of white foam core to add a little fill. (The foam core sort of fell over a little in these 2 set up shots...lol) The strobe on the right and behind the cup was snooted and set to 1/8 power. The snoot made the flash a little off balance. I normally use light-stands but for this project I used the foot that came with the strobe and a box to support the snoot. The little Ikea halogen task lamp was only used to help me get focus.
This is the snoot on the flash*:
Because I only wanted the on-board flash to trigger the other flashes and not contribute any additional light I fashioned a shield from another piece of black foam core of which I have many scraps. I fastened it to the lens with a band:
It does take some patience to do this since the smoke is a little unpredictable so take your time no matter which method you use. I do hope you will give it a try and let me know how you make out.
I didn't go into how to colorize in photoshop. That's something for another day. I will say that I really just Googled colorizing smoke photos and found a lot of info. Basically it involves multiple Hue/Saturation layers with the colorize box ticked in the adjustment interface. Then I used inverted masks in the different color layers and brushed in the colors where I wanted them. To get the white background the first thing to do is invert the background layer. I use short cuts and my photoshop is very old...CS2. I am not very good at photoshop so I don't think I am the one to ask about such things.
*The snoot I used was store bought but you can fashion your own from black foam core or black card stock. There are also fairly inexpensive folding snoots that Velcro onto the strobe. One brand that makes the folding kind is Lumiquest.
To see some of my recent smoke images please visit my recent photoblog entry here: http://www.myfinepix.co.uk/blog/259473/495006
Ray Hines has put together a feature article on one method of coloring smoke which can be read here: http://www.myfinepix.co.uk/article/623864/497546
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