365 Challenge #347 - the big smoke

Oh, the joys of a 5-day long weekend! I've loved having the time to drag out the camera and flash gear and experiment with high speed macro photography, dusk and long exposure night shots, and today's abstract little project - smoke.

I was inspired by a couple of friends who recently posted pictures of smoke, and serendipitously came across a post on Strobox.com, which showed the set up for shooting smoke with one off camera flash. I love Strobox.com for the very reason that people post the set up for the shot, and the final result, so you can see how they did it. Nifty! You've gotta love the photography community for their willingess to share knowledge.

My trusty black pop up background came in handy (I still haven't been able to work out how to fold the %&*@(%& up! I propped it up against a booksheld in my rather dark hallway, and set up the camera (on a tripod with a cable release) square on, facing the background. The lightstand with a speedlight flash was about half a metre to the right of the camera, and the trusty Flashwave III fired the flash when I was ready.

As with most of these experiments, I took a lot of shots. Like about 100. Thank god for digital photography! It was hard to know where and how to focus - so I focused initially on the incense stick I was using as the smoke source, then flicked the camera to manual focus, and more or less hoped for the best.

It also took a while to get the hang of the patterns the smoke made - the airconditioning unit above the whole set up played a bit of havoc at first. So much easier with the aircon off!

I'm sure that had the aliens landed to see me flapping a smoking incense stick around in one hand, cable release in the other, and setting off the flash every five seconds, they'd have thought I was pretty good candidate for abduction.

Anyway, the final settings for these shots were ISO 100, 1/200, f/11, white balance set to Flash. Speedlight 580EX II flash dialled down to 1/4 power. When I processed the photos in Photoshop, I cranked up the saturation and contrast, as well as the blacks (via Levels), to get this abstract style of image.

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