As part of Don Giannatti’s Project 52, we learn quickly, and often, that we should be conscious of subject-centric lighting. “Everything reflects light.” “What does the subject do with the light that is presented to it? Is it shiny, dull, or something in between?” “What light does the subject see, and how does that affect how the camera will see it?” And catawampus – don’t be catawampus unless you’re doing it on purpose, and there’s no way anyone can misconstrue the intent, but I digress…
This is a composite of a potpourri holder my wife got as a gift recently. I thought it looked really cool, and I wanted to see what it would look like as a photograph. In my mind, I could see this image all the way through, including the smoke. The only real problem was, well, we don’t actually burn incense in the house. So, candles to the rescue!
Lighting and How I Did It, after the jump.
I started by lighting the dragons themselves.
The orange light you see is a candle inside the holder. Exposure for that was about 30 seconds. Yeah, it was a pretty long exposure for what I was getting, but the glow from the candle was fairly soft. Putting the camera on a tripod with a mirror-up delay helped reduce any ghosting from vibration.
For the outside, there are two Einstein flash units in grids diagonally across the subject – front camera right & back camera left, triggered by CyberCommander. The red background light in the setup shot was not used in this version. I wanted the dragons to fade into the black background, but I also wanted to keep an edge on the left side to keep the feeling of shape. That’s why the back camera left light is there.
That got me to here:
As I mentioned above, we don’t actually burn incense, and the candle I put inside the holder didn’t put out a lot of smoke. I know; I tried. So I improvised. After I was done with the dragons themselves, I put a couple of other candles, one of them a multi-wick variety, on the table edge where the dragons were a few minutes before. I lit those candles and snuffed them out a few times. That process got me these shots of just the smoke.
From there, it was a matter of layering in the shots and masking each to look convincing. In the screen shot of the layers, you can see that I added a couple of overlay layers in places to try and bring out the orange glow from the inside through to some of the smoke on the outside. Then it was time to put on the finishing touches, like cleaning up a scratch here and a missing eye there, and releasing it out into the wild.
I hope you enjoyed this little write-up of an enjoyable January afternoon. Now go, create something!