Wulf's Webden

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Today I have decided to make another reuse-my-own-words posting, drawing on something I contributed to the Digital Photography School forum last week, although this one is edited to fit the new context.

I did a set of incense smoke pictures back in January but have not blogged about them yet, other than picking the one shown here as my favourite picture for January 2007. Click that picture to see the whole set over on Flickr. This post recalls how I took the series.

The subject was the smoke coming from an incense stick placed on my dining room table. The background was a dark velvet curtain and that was some distance away. The the smoke was illuminated with a handheld LED flashlight, which enabled me to isolate it from everything else.

I experimented with different shutter speeds and ISO (film sensitivity) settings, testing what can be done with those settings on my Nikon D40. My favourite results generally combined a fairly fast shutter speed (to capture sharp forms rather than a blur) and as low an ISO as I could get away with (because I wanted to avoid graininess).

Autofocus was no help in this situation, low light and an intangible target, so the session provided an opportunity to learn about manual focus instead. If I repeat the experiment, I will probably set the focus before turning out the lights. The area that needs to be in sharp focus remains fairly shallow, so it can be set and left.

I wanted to write some notes about it before that evening recedes too far in the past and gets buried by subsequent sessions; my aim is to learn the skill of photography rather than just taking lots of pictures but staying on a technical plateau.

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