When The Smoke Clears
Although I don’t generally do ‘studio’ photograph since I often find the subjects artificial and manufactured (which I suppose in some cases is the point), I feel exhibiting the physical and other characteristics of certain things is worth breaking the habit. Smoke photography is a perfect combination of night and macro photography – the camera’s settings have to be just right to truly display the fluidity and luminescence.
I couldn’t say what drove me to take these pictures. I simply set up the backdrop, which was a large piece of black cloth, lit the incense, and positioned my lights (two headlamps which were difficult to angle correctly), and set out experimenting with the settings. It’s not a secret formula – for each shot I needed to move in or out, alter the lighting, or wait for the tiniest of air currents to pass so the smoke wouldn’t curl.
One of the most fascinating things about photographing smoke is that you see things you never have before. Most people who burn incense light the stick and walk off without examining the delicate lines of gas, solid and liquid emanating from the glowing ember. Even upon closer examination the details are hard to see – only under the correct lighting and magnification is it truly possible to appreciate the forms and figures exhibited by the smoke.