Hot pepper

Home Experiment
– Pepper and smoke

Required items

  • Pepper
  • Incense sticks, also an incense burner if available
  • Black cloth
  • Lamp
  • External flash
  • Helping hand
  • Tripod
  • Something sharp enough to hold the pepper

Optional items

  • Radio trigger
  • Second external flash
  • Remote Trigger
  • Reflector

Setting it all up

  1. Start by hanging the black cloth from something large like a blank wall, try to make it hangs as flat as possible.
  2. Place the incense in a burner or a holder on a table approximately 30 cm in front of the black cloth (don’t light it yet)
  3. Position the lamp in such a way that the light is pointed directly at the tip of the incense. The light from the lamp should not affect the final photograph.
  4. Position the external flash at a side of the incense stick, it should also point directly at the tip of the incense stick similar to the lamp. Also make sure that the flash is not pointed at the background. Next, to start out, adjust the power of the external flash 1/16.
  5. Place the reflector directly opposite of the flash so that the light from the flash reflects off of the reflector. If you don’t have a reflector, a large sheet of white cardboard can also be used.
  6. Make sure that all windows are closed and there is no draft to avoid disturbing the smoke.
  7. Make the room as dark as possible and turn off any extra lights.

Camera Settings

  • Aperture should be around f/8 to ensure that all your smoke remains in focus.
  • Shutter speed should be set to the sync speed of your flash, typically around 1/200 or 1/250.
  • ISO should be as low as possible e.g. 100-200
  • RAW format for easier post-processing
  • White balance doesn’t matter if you’re shooting in RAW format, keep it on auto. If you’d like a warmer image, set your white balance to “shade”. If you’d like a cooler image, set your white balance to “tungsten”.
  • Manual Mode

To focus the image, set the camera up on the tripod, turn on the lamp, and focus on the tip of the incense stick.
Make sure your camera is set to manual, tilt your camera slightly up and to the left or right to where the incense smoke will be rising and make sure the stick of incense can not be seen anywhere within the frame.

Light the incense and make sure that you can see the smoke through the viewfinder throughout the frame.

Make a test-shot, make sure the flash should sync with the shutter and the light from the lamp didn’t affect the image. Take a couple more test shots and adjust the flash intensity if needed.

Finally lightly blow the smoke, or perhaps even add another incense stick to create more intricate smoke designs.

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