Seizing Possibilities

Seizing Possibilities
Seizing Possibilities

Friday, June 22, 2012

Photographing Smoke for the first time. #photog #technics

Life- It's not all smoke and mirrors

So, it was night.  Dark and foreboding.  I have never attempted photographing smoke, strictly as smoke, but I did believe it would be best if I photographed it in the dark and used a light source to highlight it to bring out the variances found in the transparency and drift that is produced.   Because of the low light I also knew that I would need my tripod, and to use a timer or a remote shutter to help reduce camera shake.  So I gathered everything that I needed:

One regular flashlight , two of the energizer light on demand sticks (I can’t find the exact type of light this is but it is a very white light-I’m thinking it is halogen,)  one votive candle, one long wooden match stick, my Canon 5D Mark II and my 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on my tripod.    I cleared the table and set it against a plain wall so there was no background noise.

It Must Be Angel's Wings
I put my camera on my tripod and on either side of the votive candle I put one of the light sticks and kept the third light in my hand lower than the table and pointing upward toward the ceiling /smoke.  “Was this going to work?” I wondered.  It was time to light the candle and I tried to focus; this part was not very easy actually.   The smoke moves so fast and is so transparent.  So I tried to focus midway to my set- up to keep the smoke in focus.  I concentrated on the wick first in manual focus and it seemed to work fairly well, although my smoke source was the wooden match, not the candle.  The aperture chosen by the camera was 2.8, which is always fine by me, so I stayed with shutter priority and a 0.5-.6 second shutter seemed to work the best to catch the smoke with all its twists and turns before it dissipated.  I set my camera to the 10 second timer and did bracketing exposure of -1/3 to +1/3 (on the timer it allowed for three quick shots making catching the smoke in three different forms much easier.)  

Petals of Smoke
The candle was lit, bringing in a quiet light; flashlights in position and turned on and I touched the long wooden match to the fire to get it burning, then dropped it lower than the candle so the candlelight would also be a light source.  I would press the shutter then point the third light upward,  and with practice blew out the flame of the match at just the right moment for the shutter to click and catch the smoke.   This took practice and I missed as often as I hit it just right at the beginning, it got better the more I practiced. Shooting straight on to the rising column of smoke also proved to be the best way to catch the smoke, although I did try to shoot it upward from below and it wasn’t very successful.  You can begin to swirl the match or do other things with it to produce various effects with the smoke.  It became great fun when it all came together and started to work. 

I found pre-planning this shoot was as important as actually shooting the smoke.  Once you understand all the things that come into play, it becomes much easier, not only for planning but for shooting.  It is worth the experience in every way and I just may find reasons to shoot it again!

As always, for me though, it is about how the photograph makes you feel.  When the colors are good, especially subtle color variances, it is even better.  So which ones touch your soul?  And how do they make you feel?