Techniques #1

It seems like everyone these days has a website dedicated to lighting techniques.  Why should I be different?  I’ve always liked helping people learn about photography, so I guess this will be my attempt.

I’ll start off with an easy one that I shot last night.  I was too lazy forgot to take a picture of the set up, but this is an easy one to visualize, so close your eyes and continue reading.

  1. Step 一 – Never admit to anyone that you’re a hippie.  Then burn some nice incense in the living room while listening to SLAYER…  That’ll keep ’em confused.
  2. Step 二 – Hang a dark sheet behind the incense.  The one in the picture above might look black, but it’s actually dark brown.  The reason it looks dark black is because I shot with a shutter speed of 1/250 and an aperture of f.8.  That’ll kill the ambient light and guarantee that no light from the room will make it to you camera’s sensor (or film, if you all artsy and stuff).
  3. Step 三 – Set up your camera on a tripod.  I used a Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 lens and kept adjusting the focal length, but about 150mm seemed to work pretty well.  That said, I don’t think the focal length matters that much.
  4. Step 四 – It’s time to decide on an aperture.  I wanted as much of the smoke in focus as possible so I decided on an f-stop of 8.  This gave me a pretty good depth of field and also made sure the background would be black and not get contaminated by the ambient room light.  Why didn’t I use f/11 or f/22 or whatever?  Because that would require entirely too much from Step 五.
  5. Step 五 – Set up a flash.  For this one I used a snooted* Sunpak Auto 555 set about 2 meters (9 feet) to the right of the smoke.  I think it was set on 1/2 power and pointed directly at the smoke.  The reason I used a snoot* was to keep the light from the flash from hitting the background (that would have ruined all my careful “kill the ambient light” settings mentioned above).
  6. Step 六 – Focus on the tip of the incense because smoke isn’t really there and you can’t focus on something that isn’t there (or is it?  I’m a science major and I never figured that one out).
  7. Step 七 – Import it all to Apple Aperture and change the color temperature to really, really blue.  This last step is actually a mistake.  If you’re smarter than me, you’ll think ahead and realize that you want it to be blue and set the white balance on you’re camera to tungsten.  After I did it in Aperture and cropped it a bit, it brought out some digital noise.  So then I had to take the noise out using some other fancy software.  No matter how fancy your software is, doing too many steps like this will degrade the end picture quality.

Thanks for reading!

* If you don’t know what a “snoot” is, stop laughing, you really should be reading strobist!

Note:  This was originally a page, now it’s a post.  I didn’t realize that I couldn’t add to pages like I can posts on the home page… live and learn.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Techniques #1

  1. Pingback: Rainbow Smoke | CraigFergusonImages

  2. This is a wonderful idea. I am sure many people will find this useful.

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