Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where There's Smoke...

Canon 30D
Canon 24-70mm f.2.8L
Shutter Speed 1/1000
Aperture f/2.8
Focal Length 68.0 mm
ISO 100
Natural Light

Thank you Sere for giving me a reason to play with a new toy. Let me explain. A good friend of mine was helping me brainstorm about my previous post (the kaleidoscope one). I mentioned that I would like to play with a prism and asked if he had one. He didn't but he did have 3 lenses that you would find in a projection TV. Furthermore, he said I could have them! I immediately started trying different techniques and ideas but couldn't really come up with anything good. In the meantime, I managed to get this picture of the moon with the kaleidoscope and sort of forgot about the lenses.

At this point I must explain these lenses a bit more. To be clear, these are not the kind of lenses you put on your camera. They are in fact very high quality and include a glass element that is frankly the best magnifier of sunlight this side of the Mississippi! Which brings me to possibly the best part of this post.

Picture this: sitting at a red light (a long one too) with the lenses sitting on the passenger side floor (can't have them on the seat - they might burn up my car!) and an empty envelope on the passenger seat. It's a very bright day and the sun is high in the sky. What do I do? I immediately pick up a lens and the envelope and start focusing the intense sunlight onto said envelope. 2 seconds later (and I'm not exaggerating!) there is a smoking hole in the envelope and the laser this thing is throwing off has gone to work on my shorts! Luckily I managed to regain some level of maturity early enough to prevent the need for skin grafts. However, I was holding a smoldering envelope on RT 14 no less and the light was turning green. So I blew on it which of course promptly stoked the fire...literally! Now I have open flame in my car. FABULOUS! I managed to extinguish the blaze by holding it out the window whilst accelerating to 40 MPH in a 30 for the express purpose of putting out the fire. Yeah, safety first. That's me all the way. I can imagine what my insurance agent would say!

Which brings me to this photo...finally. When I heard about Sere and Johnny's fire I immediately said a prayer of thanks that no one was hurt. By the time she posted pictures of the blaze I was ready to be inspired and immediately thought about how to capture the really cool effects of this TV lens. One thing led to another and I ended up with this photo. I won't say exactly what it is but I want to hear what you all think. It's easy for me to see everything for obvious reasons but I'm curious about it's ambiguity.

I needed my remote trigger and tripod for this. Plus, I used the rapid shutter function, which on my camera allows me to take 5 shots per second. Additionally, it was important to operate in full manual mode so that the camera's metering didn't screw up the exposure. It was a lot of fun and I would encourage all of you to take some time to set-up something that makes you curious. I used to scoff at tripods and remotes and thought it was important to be mobile at all times. Though I still believe being mobile is great, I've learned to love taking my time and really thinking about the set-up and the lighting. I've learned so much by going slow and I think we all could. In the meantime, just remember: do NOT focus sunlight with anything while driving in the car.


  1. All I can picture is Yosemite Sam running around grabbing his ass, yelling
    "My biscuits are burning. My biscuits are burning."
    4 days from now when it's your turn again can you please take pity on me and take an "easy" photo? ;)
    *Stepping up to the plate*

  2. Very cool plume of smoke !
    I see graining of an old piece of knotted oak. The type that smells bad when you burn it... Am I close Master Sherlock???
    If you get up close and personal, there is crazy energy (like a solar flare)under the brightest spot of the picture. There's also a mysterious blue green bit at the edge of your darkest shadow. HMMM Mold, paint, or light???
    The shadows make me feel as though you shot this from underneath and the warm light makes me feel like you were inside. (Please tell me I'm wrong)
    Very Cool shot. I'll be VERY BUSY tomorrow. I have an extinguisher handy, don't worry.

  3. Very cool shot. It looks like a piece of tree bark or something like that. And in that top right corner is it a flame or just the lighting? Very ambiguous.

  4. So Jay'me, you a partially correct. It is knotty old oak. And I burned the word "FIRE" into the wood using the TV lens. Sere, in the upper right is a puff of smoke as I focused the sunlight a bit longer. My pyro was really working!