Year Two (118) – Smokin’

I have photographed smoke a couple of times before… but took the opportunity to capture it again and to see if I could pick up some new tips. Smoke is a great material to photograph, it has a mind of its own and you never quite know where it is going to go, but they make great textures and brushes that you can use to enhance other pictures and images.

This time I took the opportunity to experiment with shutter speeds and to learn from other photographers.. I had the dark background much further away that made it easier .. and I used my 100mm macro leans and a snood on the flash to direct the light. These are some of the different results I achieved:

ISO200, 1/640sec, F7.1

ISO200, 1/640sec, F7.1

I experimented with various shutter speeds and depths of fields, and I felt that the shots I took with a much faster shutter speed and using the off camera flash on High Speed Sync created the most interesting shapes and textures.

I also realised it was important to shoot portrait .. smoke naturally rises so to get the longest smoke plumes I needed to have my camera in their position, for focusing it was much easier with the camera on a tripod using a shutter release to create the shot.

ISo200, F5, 1/1250sec

ISO200, F5, 1/1250sec

Shooting in tungsten white balance gives a blue tinge to the image .. the same location, the same smoke but a different in camera look.

ISo200, F5, 1/1250sec - manually adjusted the white balance

ISO200, F5, 1/1250sec – manually adjusted the white balance

I love the funnel effect that was created here but it also shows how tricky it is to keep the moving smoke in focus, and how quickly smoke moves – at 1/160sec you can see the soft movement in the smoke.

ISO200, F9, 1/160sec

ISO200, F9, 1/160sec

This time I placed an orange sweet wrapper as a gel over part of the light coming out of my flash.. it was not intentionally to not cover the whole of the light .. but I love the effect to me it is a much natural shot, and reminds me of fire. You can see how the incense sticks are coloured with the gel, but the combination of colours adds some more depth and detail to the smoke.

Yellow Smoke - ISO100, F14, 1/160sec

Yellow Smoke – ISO100, F14, 1/160sec

I was really aware this time of including space .. space for the smoke to move into and move around, so I could capture the details to use. By changing the kelvin value to the light, in camera you can change the colour of the smoke to create a different mode.

2 coloured sweet wrappers on the flash - ISO200, F5, 1/12508

2 coloured sweet wrappers on the flash – ISO200, F5, 1/12508

Adding a second sweet wrapper, got me this great result … I am amazed that this was achieved in camera!

ISo200, F14, 1/160sec

ISO200, F14, 1/160sec

With smoke, it is all about taking lots of shots and then choosing the one that fulfils your imaginative ideas … meet the Alien – you can see his flattened head balancing on his neck, one swirling eye gazing at you, his rib cage in casing his upper body and his arm reaching towards you …  or maybe you can just see some smoke!

Alien Smoke - ISo200, F14, 1/160sec

Alien Smoke – ISO200, F14, 1/160sec

The above image of the Alien Smoke monster – I decided to turn into a photoshop brush.. creating a brush is relatively straight forward and is a great way to add something more to an image – I have used it below just to show how you can create abstract textures and backgrounds by using the brush to create something more.

If you fancy a go at making your own brush – here is a great step by step guide: How to make brushes…


One Brush – Abstact Art?

Last time I experimented with smoke I inverted the colours and added colour in post processing… see Day 331 – this time I took this a step further and used photoshop to develop the proceed image to create a more complex pattern photograph – it reminds me of the kind of images that I wished I could create as a child on my Spirograph… although mine were so much basic!

Creating Smoke Images - ISO 200, F14, 1/160sec and some photoshop magic!

Creating Smoke Images – ISO 200, F14, 1/160sec and some photoshop magic!


2 replies
    • Helen
      Helen says:

      Thanks Dina

      Your photographs of Norway are stunning too – that is a place I would love to visit one day… I would love to see real snow and the Northern Lights… but I don’t think my photos would do them justice!

      If you have not checked our Dina’s site – you can here:

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