Soon after purchasing my Nikon D90 in 2010, I was keen to try my hand at some long exposures. I started playing around in the dark garage, using a tripod, flashlights and laser pointers. I then decided to try my hand at some incense smoke photos, without really having a clue what I was doing. I set up a flashlight on the floor below a stick of burning incense and started snapping away. I immediately had trouble trying to focus. I kept trying longer and longer exposures in the hopes of being able to capture something usable. The photo below was one of my first successes and was made using a 15 second exposure – something I don’t think I ever used again. I got lucky this one time, though. It remains one of my favorites.
As I progressed, I began using shorter exposure times by cranking up the ISO on the camera. It made the photos grainier, but it was a concession I was willing to make to be able to capture more detail.
There are other ways of setting up for this kind of photography, including purchasing a special type of external flash, but I was unwilling to spend the money and so I settled for my very crude method. This meant that I had a very low success rate of getting a shot that was focused, let alone getting something that looked like a person or creature or whatever. I would take hundreds of photos and then spend lots of time reviewing and mostly deleting them. Once in a while though, I would capture something very cool and then, a few days, weeks or months later, I would be at it again.
I made several runs at this method between late 2010 and sometime in 2012. After we moved to a rental where the garage wasn’t really a good option, I would wait until dark, put blankets over the curtains of the bedroom and set up my flashlights, boxes, incense and sometimes colored plastic sheets over the different flashlights to add some alternate colors. Somewhere along the line, I learned that I could also add some selective coloring to parts of the image in Aperture 3, the photo editing program I was using at the time. Eventually, I got tired of the amount of work versus low success ratio and moved on to other things. I also got tired of being in a small room choking on incense smoke while trying to focus on elusive wispy images. 🙂
I don’t regret doing it one bit, however. When I got something worthwhile, it was very exciting. I’ll add a few more in this post and if you’re interested in seeing more, I’m adding a gallery under “Jeff’s Galleries” called, “Incense Smoke Images.” See if you see what I see.
Thanks for having a look!