This article is for anyone who wishes to get started making artistic images of smoke and bubbles. It covers the basics of how I have produced them, but there are innumerable variables that will impact the type, the colors and the quality of the images – I leave you to discover and manipulate those for yourselves. What I have described here is certainly not a definitive methodology. As with many artistic endeavors, those blessed with patience and perseverance will be amply rewarded.
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Producing pictures of bubbles shrouded by smoke is easy: create a source of steadily rising smoke, create a bubble and steer the bubble into the smoke, then take the picture. Hah! Like many things in this world, the concept here is very simple, but the execution is quite complex and lots of time, patience, trial and error, experimentation and luck are required.
If you’ve never experimented with either smoke or bubble photography before, then I’d recommend getting some experience of each individual element before trying to put them together.
1. I use incense sticks to create the smoke; these vary enormously in the amount of smoke that they generate and also how ‘lively’ the smoke is – which I think must be a factor of how hot they are burning and how fast they burn. I have tried a variety of makes, from India, Japan, Thailand and North America, but there does not seem to be any one source that provides the best quantity and liveliness of smoke. At least they are fairly cheap and easily available online, so experimenting to get the best combination is not costly.
2. Another factor to think about is the color of the smoke, as having a blend of different colors makes the pictures more interesting. Almost all incense sticks produce a light grey smoke, but a few produce a blueish smoke. Note that the color of the stick has no bearing on the color of the smoke and neither does the scent that they give off.
3. Too much smoke, from using too many incense sticks at once, will over-power the picture and obscure the bubbles; I generally find that two or three sticks burning closely together produce the best smoke.
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