Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smooth

Smooth

Today's photograph is from a set of smoke images. This is a really fun little project to do. First find an area that you can make as dark as possible. Set up a black background; I used a black, three fold project board like you would use for a science fair display. You can get project boards at any craft store in a variety of colors. They make handy backgrounds for table-top subjects and are easy to store. Put your camera on a tripod or other firm support. Place some incense or smokey candle on the table with the background. Make sure the incense is not right up against the background because you don't want light spilling on to the background. Place a flash to one side of the incense with a gobo/flag to block light from hitting the background. Line the flash up with the incense/candle. Light the incense/candle, manually focus your camera where the smoke is and use an apeture to give you a deep enough depth of field to make sure that the smoke is in focus whereever it meanders. An apeture of f/5.6 to F/8 should be good. Your shutter speeds should be set within your flash's synch speed. You can us a long shutter speed if you want, but remember that the smoke is going to be frozen by the flash.
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Now all you need to do is to turn the lights out and start taking photographs. I remote trigger is useful for this; I use the IR remote for my camera. You can use a wired manual release if you have one, or the shutter button with the exposure delay function turned on. You might need to fine tune the exposure at first. Simply increase or decrease the apeture until you like what you see in your viewfinder. Then release the shutter whenever you see an interesting pattern in the smoke. If the smoke is too smooth or not interesting enough, disturb the air near it by blowing lighting, snapping your fingers, clapping, anything to add a touch of turbulence to the air. Don't be surprised if you get mezmerised by the smoke patterns and take a couple of hundred photographs. It is such an interesting dynamic that you are capturing, and it will be infinitely varible.

After you have finished taking the photographs, bring them into your image processing software of choice. Adjust the black point using Levels and Curves to blank out the background if any light managed to get on it. You can then apply color to it by using a gradient layer and playing around with the layer blending modes to get the look that you want.

I hope you enjoy the making your own smoking photographs. I can be a lot of fun and isn't very difficult.


6 comments:

Dorky Musician said...

If only I had a 580EX. That's going to be my next big camera purchase. I have looked at photographs of smoke and the cool things that can be done with them and wished I had the flash to do it. Hopefully that will come before Christmas.

Do you have a gallery of other smoke photos? I'd love to see them. I enjoyed the one you posted.

Craig Lee said...

An external flash is quite useful. Especially if you can get it off of the camera.

My smoke gallery is located at http://taallyn.zenfolio.com/p69503066/ . Thanks for the comments.

Dorky Musician said...

External flash is very high on my list. I have been in situations where I wanted to take portraits, but they came out bad because of the lighting. The built in flash on my camera is awful. I don't know why they would bother to put it in other than to add an item on the list of features.

Those smoke pictures look very cool. I can't wait to try it myself.

Craig Lee said...

Check to see if your camera has a setting to control the flash power. If it does, then try some different power settings to reduce the amount of flash it puts out. It won't be as good as an off camera flash, but it might help things from getting blown out by the built-in flash.

Chris Osborne said...

If only I could light things in the dorm room. I would have a lot of fun with this.

Craig Lee said...

Ha ha! That's true. You should do this somewhere safe and where it is allowed ... like you're parent's house when they are away. :-)