Smoke’s a great thing to photograph, and getting interesting shapes against a black background is quite easy to do. I set my camera up on a tripod and put an incense stick into some Blu-Tack on a table in front of the camera. I put some black paper in the background, and put my flash on the floor behind the table so it backlit the smoke but didn’t flash on to the lens, which would give flare and reduce contrast. The flash had a wireless trigger on it, but a simple trigger cable would do just as well.
I prefocused on the smoke, then sat very still and breathed very softly so I didn’t disturb the smoke’s flow too much. Here’s a shot of a lovely swirling shape. No-one will ever produce the same image, as the airflow is unique.
If you take a smoke image into Photoshop, copy it into another layer, and move one layer off to the side, you can make the image symmetrical. Once it’s symmetrical you start seeing recognisable objects in the images. It’s something the brain needs to make happen so you can understand the image. Here there’s a samurai warrior.
This image, of a Roswell alien skeleton perhaps, is two of smoke images flipped and copied. The top half and bottom half do go together well. If you look you might also see a cat wearing the top half of Yoda’s head… !!!
Smoking is bad for you, but can be great for photography!