Tuesday, July 3, 2007

DIY: Smoke made easy

Hello again.

Sorry guys, It's been a couple of days since I haven't written anything to the blog but I was out of Luxembourg and went into Spain and Portugal summoned by Rolling Stone to cover Monsters of Rock in Zaragoza and the opening show Metallica in SuperBock Super Rock in Lisboa.

You can check some of the shots I made on the above links:

Monsters of Rock - Zaragoza
SuperBock SuperRock - Lisboa


Today I decided talk about a simple project that you can do when the weather is bad or when you do not have anything better to do.

I plan on doing the "Smoke made easy" after seeing a lot of great images about Smoke.

I always wondered how people could accomplish those shots and is I could have made them with just two simple strobes and without having some heavy studio setup and light.

And as odd as you can imagine... it's p
ossible.

Here goes the things you will be needing:

- a Table to pu
t the things on (I used my wife's iron table :) )
- several Smoke sticks (you can buy them chea
p at any Chinese store near you)
- a small plate to put under the Stick
s (so it won't burn anything when the ashes are falling)
- black background ( You can use an old Ozzy black t-shirt turned inside out)
- camera with a 24-70mm, a 50m
m or 85mm lens on manual focus
- one or two small strobes
(In this examples I used two Nikons SB26 but it can be made with only one)
- Snoots to avoid the light entering the lens and to direct the light more precisely
- Turn the all the lights off
- Patience,
Patience, Patience and a lot of Patience...

The setup is very simple and the results are so co
ol that after you read this you will sure try to do it.

Smoke Strobist Setup

You can see that the strobes (Nikon SB26) are pointing towards the Smoke stick and you should put them as close as possible to the smoke without entering the frame. Leave some space on the photo frame because you never know what side will the smoke turn.

I use a long sheet of black paper (pay some attention on the type of paper in order not to be a brilliant one, choose mate instead or use the T-shirt I talked about. If you
do not have the Ozzy one another one ;) ) that I bought for 50 cents on a supermarket and use it to cover the background from the bottom to top.

As you can see I put a small white plate under the burning stick because I did not want the ashes to burn anything.

Then I set the camera focus and the possible smoke catch, with the lights of the room on, and after everything is set turn the lights off.


Light up the Stick and wait a few seconds until the smoke start to arise, you can blow the smoke from different sides to create great effects.

Then shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot... don't mind if you do not know what are you shooting, but if you pay some attention while the flashes are on you can see some of the things generated.

I also find it helpful to have a small lantern light you can point to the smoke stick and try to get some results from it.

Pay attention to from one in a while to open some window or door since the too much smoke you inhale could make your vision to start blurring and you images start to become less sharpened.

Advice do 3 or 4 sticks and stop for 1/2 a hour, then restart the procedure ;)


The flashes were triggered with Pocket Wizards with a sync speed of 250 and use Av 9.0 but you can try with more... the more the better to keep all smoke in focus.

Here are 4 examples of my rainy afternoon:























Well but these are not the final art shots.

Afterwards you open them on Photoshop and crop and clean what you do not like on the shot.

Next do an Invert to the photo so that the background would come up white (Image/Adjustments/Invert or Ctrl+I).

Finally use the Hue/Saturation to change the colors you want on your final image (Image/Adjustments/HueSaturation or Ctrl+U)

And voilá... here are the final images after the Photoshop processing:

Smoke with a mouth??Smoke flower

Children Smoke scratchesSmoke Creature

Aren't they incredible... so what are you waiting for?

Go make some yourself.

Thanks for reading and see you on the next one.

Rui

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