West Bay Cliffs

Using a variety of simple mirroring and blending methods in Photoshop to create different outcomes which show us a different perspective of familiar sights. These were from inverted HDR images of the cliffs at West Bay.

Smoke Photography – A how to guide

Recently after a load of ‘Smoke Photography’ images I said I would write a blog post of a guide to what I had done and how I had done it.  Below is an image of the whole set up and I will discuss this in detail.

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My set up is possibly overkill but it’s kit that I own and use so why the heck not.  One of the most important parts (apart from the incense stick to make the smoke) is the black backdrop.  Creating the negative space behind the image enables use to be very flexible in post production.  All I use is a black piece of material bought from a fabric store and then tailored to hang from a backdrop stand kit.

The incense I have used is very cheap, 60 sticks for £1 at Poundland, and does the trick perfectly!

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I used my camera on a tripod, this isn’t essential as the settings used can make fast speed shooting very easy and dramatically reduce shake and blur. However I found it very useful for having a spare hand to manipulate the smoke.

A light source is very important, I used a Nikon SB700 speedlight but a simple desk lamp can be sufficient.  This was fired using a basic radio remote trigger.

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I used a reflector to balance out the light in the image, this isn’t needed but it’s what I wanted.

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The settings:

For my images I used the flashgun at 1/16th power and had the camera set to:

1/60th

f 8

ISO 100

The f 8 helped to keep the depth of field enough to not get massively out of focus areas of the smoke.  Focussing can be a big issue, I framed the shot so the tip of the incense was just visible in the bottom of the viewfinder and manually focused on that.  Cropping this out in post is simple.

To take it a step up I added coloured filters to the flashgun to change the cast of the light.  This colours the smoke and gives us more possibilities when we edit.

The Editing:

The editing I’ve kept really simple for the most part where I’ve cropped out the tip of the incense stick, deepened the black and raised the shadows on the a tonal curve.  With a colour filter over the flashgun we can also adjust the hue to create entirely different sets of colours!  If we wanted to take it a step further we could invert the colours to make the background white, the smoke negative and adjust the hue.  Below are a couple of my examples…

 

Shooting a time-lapse

Set is key:

Set up your camera on a tripod and frame the shot you would like, just as if you were setting up for a single photograph.  Set the camera to Aperture Priority (A on a Nikon or Av on a Canon), this will mean the camera sets the shutter speed depending on the lighting conditions at the time, accounting for changes in light from cloud cover or other factors.  Choose a point in the frame to focus on, focus the camera and turn any AutoFocus functions ‘Off’, last thing we want is images with a disparity of focuses.  Finally ensure your camera is set to ‘Fine’ or ‘JPEG’, what! No RAW? That’s right, shoot JPEG.  With the final result being 30fps, the edited video is going to show 30 images every second! The file sizes for processing RAW files, combined with their short screen time, means that shooting RAW is an unnecessary approach.

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The intervals:

For my examples I took a photograph once every 10 seconds for an hour, this will give us a total of 360 images from one hour of shooting and will make a nice smooth 30fps edit at the end.  For timing the intervals a lot of cameras come with an ‘Interval Shooting’ mode (most Nikons do), but if yours doesn’t have one it just means you will need to time and release the shutter every 10 seconds, laborious I know!  An alternative could be to tether your camera to a laptop where many programmes such as Lightroom enable you to shoot at intervals, this does start to depend on other factors though, like needing a fully charged laptop or one that’s going to last a full hour!

Creating the Time-lapse

So what we have so far is a ton of image but no time-lapse, so let’s build!  Different people have different approaches but this is how I do mine.  First every image has to be sharpened and secondly every image needs to be cropped to a ratio of 16:9.  16:9 because that’s a widescreen ratio which is the standard screen ratio of the vast majority of TV’s, Monitors and Screens.  Sharpening because we must always sharpen an image, but how do we do this to 360 images without wanting to pull our eyes out?  Again this is how I do it, open the folder with our images in Adobe Bridge, select all of them, then access File > Open in Camera Raw. 

Next we’re going to select all the images as in the second screenshot.  From here, while all images are selected, anything and everything we do will be applied to all of the images.  We also need to change our cropping ratio to 16:9 and apply the crop to an image. As we shot with a tripod, the parameters of every image are the same anyway so this will easily apply the crop to all 360 images.  Now simply save out the images to a destination of your choosing, keep the file name the same just for ease.  This may take some time depending on how fast your computer is.

Now it’s time to start building the actual time-lapse, a lot of what we’ve done until now has been essential ground work to help it succeed.  To build my time-lapse I’m going to use GoPro Studio which is a free software available from the GoPro website and I find that it works very well.  I’ve tried various softwares in the past, mostly video editing ones, and find them to just be too processor hungry and overly complicated for what we need.

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First we’re going to import the images to our project, followed by selecting the imported set, then ‘add clip to conversion list’, then hit ‘Convert’.  From here the software will convert all the images into a single video piece which operates at 29.97 Frames Per Second (fps).  From here ‘Proceed to Step 2’.

When in the edit step we’re not going to make any changes or faffing, this is just if you’re using GoPro studio to apply filters or type or any other video editing tools.  We’re simply going to drag our project on to the timeline and move on to Step 3.

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Step 3 is simple, give your time-lapse a name and a saving destination and voila! You have your time-lapse video.

As I said before, this is my approach, you might have your own.  Check out the video below, Happy shooting! 

Eastney Harbour Mouth