Thursday, July 19, 2012

How I Got The Shot #32 - The Smoking Dragon

If you read VisualOhio articles, you've probably seen the Asian Festival  article about the dragon boat races.  If not, jump on over to the site HERE and check it out!

I bring up the dragon boat races because my wife happened to be in one of  the competing teams.  As a way to honor her being selected for the team, I picked up an incense burner that is a replica of a dragon boat.
I was stumbling about the house and I saw the boat there and thought to myself that it would be a fun little project to setup a still life.
For this shoot, I wanted to highlight the subtle yet complex wisps of smoke from the incense and have some dramatic lighting for the boat as well.

Gear :
Fuji X10
Radio Popper JrX Transmitter and Receiver
1/8" grid
LumoPro C-Stand with a 40 inch boom arm
Lumopro light stand with a boom arm
umbrella adapter/frio cold shoe
sync cable

Misc Items:
Freezer Paper
Dragon Boat
Incense sticks

EXIF Info:
Manual, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/250th shutter
Speed light set at 1/8th power

The Shoot anad Light Setup:
I setup the small Lumopro light stand with boom arm(Not the C-stand) to hold the freezer paper.  This is used like a white seamless background.  I taped it across the boom arm. I then placed the SB-28 with grid on it onto the umbrella adapter and frio cold shoe - then attached the adapter to the c-stand boom arm.  I did this because I wanted the light above and slightly behind the boat and incense.

I then placed the boat and the burning incense on the white paper. Using different points of view from the camera and moving the boat about, I got quite a few different looks. Why is the light above and slightly behind?   Just like shooting moving water, the light going through the smoke creates definition around the smoke particles.  Light hitting from behind the smoke creates a diffused look and really makes the smoke bright white as it disperses the light.

Shooting with the light source from the front reflects very little light back to the camera and the smoke does not look as impressive.  You can also see from the shots that the grid is giving us a nice, white for the base of the boat, and as the grid light falls off  to the back we get a nice gradient that also helps allow for the smoke to stand out .

Post Processing:
Using only Lightroom 4.1, I wanted to have a pretty dramatic look.  This means looking at the CLARITY and CONTRAST sliders.   Cranking the clarity to 100 and bunmping the contrast 25 gave me what I was looking for.  I also used the CROP tool to fine tune the framing of the image.  Last steps were to bump up the VIBRANCE and SATURATION as well.   Each slider was moved up to 30.

Always remember - get as much correct in camera as you can.  It makes image edits much quicker and simpler.  It also gives you the best possible image to start with.  I used a good 5 or 6 minutes up front getting the camera exposure and the speed light power setup so that I had a proper exposure.  I spot checked the image on the LCD, but more importantly - I looked at the histogram.
Another note - by keeping the exposure and light power consistent, post processing is simplified.  When you get the first look of the image you want, you can just use the sync feature in Lightroom to apply those edits to a batch of images.

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