Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

What do you do on a rainy day and you’ve got an urge to break out the camera and shoot something? Try something new! About a month ago artist/photographer Linda Clower whose creativity, and talent I’ve long admired began experimenting with Smoke Photography. Her results are stunning, and I’ve wanted to try it myself since seeing hers.

I set my Nikon D700 mounted with a 35mm f2 lens on a tripod with the on board flash set to fire, and used a lamp on camera right. Using a couple of yards of Ultra Suede purchased for a DIY back-drop which I taped with painters tape to wall  then draped the excess over my sideboard to use as a base to set my incense dish. Setting the incense about a foot from the back of the backdrop I lit the incense, dimmed the lights and took a few shots. Below is my first attempt.

It’s rather soft. Not at all the crisp photo I had hoped to create, but I do like the surreal, and arty feel to this finished work.  However I wanted to be able to get the crisp shot I was hoping to capture.

I think the room was too bright. I decided to try it again on another day.

I woke up early motivated to try Smoke Photography again, but with changes. I decided to use my Nikon SB600 Speedlight instead of a lamp or clamp light, but I needed a Snoot to direct the light on the smoke. I’d seen DIY Snoots before and knew I had just about everything at home to make one so, I rooted around the kitchen cupboards looking for a box to make the Snoot. I found the perfect box in the refrigerator; a large rectangular tea box.  I cut it to fit around my Speedlight then covered both sides with Gaffers tape. Not having any velcro in the house to seal it closed around the Speedlight, and be able to re-use it in the future I used painters tape to close it. Soon I’ll purchase some velcro for it.

Here’s my DIY 7.5in Snoot

Now it was just a matter of waiting for evening when the light would be dimmer. The light got really dim outside due to rain clouds so I closed the blinds and set this up then started shooting before the sun came out again.I changed my set up this go round. Here’s the set up I used this afternoon D700 mounted w/35mm f2 lens, hand-held. I moved the lamp(camera right) closer, and I tried to keep the light from spilling onto the back with the shade. I wanted the light from the lamp to light up the smoke so I could focus on it and get the crisper shot. The Snoot was camera left.  My settings were: ISO 800, f11, 0.3 seconds, Manual mode, and manual focus.

I’m much happier with this result.

Nikon D700, D300s, 35mm f2, and 50mm f1.8

Here are some tutorials that  I used to  help me create this shot and  get some help with post editing.!


Author: circadianreflections

My name is Deborah Zajac. I'm a photographer living in Silicon Valley. I am a passionate nature, landscape, night/astro photographer. I shoot predominately in color and use Nikon Digital Cameras, and lenses. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the photos I've taken while on my travels. Please feel free to leave a comment I'd love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

  1. Interesting technique with great results, Deb.

    I’m trying creative flash techniques myself with a snoot made from a coozie (koozie), and also with gaffer tape. I punch a hole in the tape and cover the entire lens of the flash with the tape. This results in a narrow beam of light. Fun stuff, and learning a lot about Nikon CLS. I have on order gels and honeycomb diffuser to experiment more…

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