UPDATE: I’ve posted more smoke shots on my follow-up post.

This past week, one of the readers of my blog (and frequent commenter) Genevieve from the Prairie Bluestem blog emailed me a link to an article about photographing smoke. The article was quite interesting so I decided to give it a try.

The first hurdle I had to overcome was finding incense sticks in Sandy Utah. After visiting several businesses suggested by my wife Michelle, I found some on clearance at Pier 1 Imports. Incense in hand it was time to start shooting.

To create the images I used an off camera flash positioned at a 90 degree angle to the camera and shot against a black background. I placed the incense on a stool and let the smoke drift upward into the shot. I then did various things to disrupt the air and create the patterns. Capturing the smoke required a bit of experimenting with exposure. I ended up shooting stopped down to f/22 with a shutter speed of 1/250 (the fasted my 30D can shoot and still synch the flash). I had the camera on a tripod and used a remote release to trigger the shots. Since this procedure involved the use of more than two hands, I enlisted the help of my frequents assistants Missy and Sarah (my daughters).

The only manipulation I did in Photoshop was to adjust the colour and a bit of cloning to clean up the edges. This particular shot was also inverted, causing the background to become white.

You can see some more examples of the shots on my Flickr account. Click here to view them.