How It Was Done: Smokin Grater

Here goes another how it was done post, this time on my Photo5 entry I called “Smokin Grater”. The finalists are announced today sometime and then the other contestants vote on who they think should win. There are about 8000 entries so I’m not holding out too much hope of being a finalist… but you never know 🙂

For those of you who missed it here goes the image I submitted.

So the brief was as follows:

Incense/Black and White

This is a moody brief. Use smoke from the incense to create ambience and atmosphere in a black and white photo. It’s not just about shooting smoke, but capturing the essence of black and white photography in a dramatic way.

Once again this seems simple enough:

Thanks to my new scanner I can now show you my pre shoot thoughts 🙂


So the original idea was to sit a camera on a board with the lens above a hole and let the smoke rise up and around the lens. Taken from a slightly high angle where you couldn’t see the hole it would like the camera was smoking.. I also had plans to throw a stack of photos so it looked like they were exploding out of the back of the camera…

Anyway after a bit more thought I thought it would be more amusing to use a cheese grater and make it look like it was smoking due to over grating…

I really like the aesthetic of photographer Caleb Charland and wanted to try to emulate his clean images (turns out it’s really really hard to make images look as clean as his 🙂 )

So the idea was to use a long exposure to give a very hazy smoke presence…

I put a snoot on a speedlight and placed it under the table and had another speedlight bouncing off the ceiling.

After adding a pile of melted cheese (which ended up being melted by a fan heater after all else failed) I started playing around with the incense to see what kind of smoke effect I would get… About an hour later there was still no sign of smoke and I was starting to get a bit frustrated….Grrrr…

About now I throw my hands up in despair and walk away and go have a shower…

When I come back I decide to scrap what I have done and start again.

I decided to use a black background and a light globe on one of my speedlights and see what happens.

This was the first shot off the camera after setting things up… at this point things are looking up 🙂

So now its time to add some smoke and a snooted speedlight behind to highlight it with a silver bounce off to the left to reflect a bit of light back onto the grater.

This is how the setup looked at this point:

Again my studio is Soooo high-tech… 🙂

After quite a bit of playing around I found the best way to show smoke up is to backlight it… It was a lesson hard learned and if I had known this previous it would have saved me many an hour 🙂

A slight re-jigging of the composition and …

Image straight off the camera with no processing

Processed to Black and White using Adobe Lightroom with a bit of retouching in Photoshop to take out the hotspots from the incense inside the grater.

Nikon D70s, 50mm f1.8 Lens, ISO 200. SB24 Speedlight with Globe and SB80DX with Snoot. Black reflector as backdrop and Silver reflector as bounce.

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One response

  1. Amanda

    like.

    05/11/2010 at 18:43

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