Monday, September 21, 2009


Valentine Dancers

It did rain all weekend like the forecasts said it would. However, I did set up the tabletop "studio" for some smoke photography like I mentioned on Friday. For the smoke source I used a Patchouli incense stick. Those give a nice, thin stream of smoke that you can then deform into shapes and swirls with a light puff of air or snapping your finger close to it. The base images were taken with the camera on a tripod and focused onto the tip of the incense stick. It can be difficult to focus on the smoke as you have to do this sort of photography in a fairly dark room. One of my flashes was off to the left of the camera with a snoot to restrict the light to just the area of the smoke and to keep it from causing lens flare. The flash was also flagged to prevent light from spilling on to the background; although I did still have some problems with that from time to time. I used a black, three fold "project" board for my background. This gave me the contrast needed to see the smoke in the image.

More after the jump.

The final images were processed initially in Lightroom 2 for basic tone, white balance, and camera calibration. Generally this amounted to setting the camera calibration to "Camera Standard", setting a custom white balance, and increasing the black point to make sure the background was actually black. Next I took the images into Photoshop CS4. I applied a colored gradient to the smoke. Then I just played around with mirroring the smoke so that it formed various patterns until I got something I liked.

I'm pretty happy with my results. The exercise did what I wanted it to do. It got the camera back in my hands and spurred some creative thinking. The Photoshop work was particularly good for me as I haven't used it enough yet to be comfortable with it's features. I will admit I had to have a couple of my Photoshop books on the desk to help me with some of the initial layering and mirroring. Once I figured it out though, it really wasn't too difficult. Which made the subsequent images really fun to do.

Keep shooting.

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