"beam of light" effect - suggestions, please

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by richc, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. I'm setting up a still life shot evocative of a dusty attic - imagine a forgotten object lit by small beam of sunlight coming through a chink in the roof, with the surrounding area fading off into the gloom ... the attic's dusty, so the light beam is clearly visible, as here: light beam effect
    I'll be using some small halogen "hot" lights for lighting.
    To get the light beam effect, I'll need make the atmosphere hazy, so I've thought of borrowing a small nightclub fog generator or setting off a small smoke bomb (the floor's concrete, usefully!).
    Any tips and suggestions on pulling this off?
  2. smoke machines make a kind of cloud, which is more similar to blowing a cigarette at a window. if you go to a lighting
    company, either photographic or for stage and events, they will have a product that is called "smoke in a can" (the actual
    label might be different). this is some kind of haze, that you can spray, wait a couple of minutes, and it creates that lovely
    haze that allows light to form a beam.

  3. A good fresnel will light a mist for you. The example you linked to is a rather crude photoshop using a soft hair brush, layer, and screen blend.

    You can duplicate that, but double the layers and add noise to your layer mask on one, and tighten the other (inner beam). It'll look more natural.
  4. <p>Thanks - "smoke in a can" now duly ordered. Sounds much more controllable than my ideas! So, that's the haze source sorted!

    <p>I didn't look too closely at the example photo - thought it was real, from a v. quick glance. I'm a firm believer in getting it right in front of the lens as much as possible, so, no, I'll not be creating the effect in Photoshop...

    <p>If anyone has any further tips on photographing this type of subject, they'll be gratefully received...

    <p>The shot I'm after is part of a series I'm doing, a couple of which are below to give you an idea.

    <img src="http://www.bhcc-online.org/gallery/d/8927-2/08-03-11+15-04h+19.jpg">

    <img src="http://www.bhcc-online.org/gallery/d/4798-2/Still+Life.jpg">
  5. "smoke in a can" is very weak and doesn't last very long. It might work in a small scale set such as the dead rodent but will be much less effective on the larger set. Instead you should look for a rental smoke machine. Whichever way you go you need to fan the "smoke" to fill the area with an even mist, which is why a small aerosol can is ineffective.

    As Nathan said, a fresnel spot is the best way to show the beam of light. You'll need to slightly backlight the fog so position your light between the side and rear of the subject, not from a position near the camera.

    Another trick is to position the light source as far away from the subject as possible, so it's more of a point source, and place a flag with a small circle cut into it in the light beam near the subject but still out of the frame of the shot. The flag with the circular hole will help by eliminating all but the more parallel light rays which will create a more convincing beam of light.
  6. how about get a hazer or smoke machine (then disperse the smoke using a fan)? then make fresnel lens focus the needed beam of light.
  7. Thanks everyone. I couldn't get hold of a fresnel spot (typically, someone gave me one afterwards! <rolls eyes>).

    Had to do a bit of lateral thinking to achieve what I wanted, so, in case it helps anyone else, this is what I did - a bit Heath Robinson, but it worked! It might seem an awful lot of effort, but I was determined to get the shot I'd envisaged: an old shelf in a dusty attic, gently lit by light coming in through small chinks in the roof...

    The set was small scale, so I thought "smoke in a can" would work. I needed to keep the smoke around the set, so I turned a desk on its side, and covered the the three open sides with card - creating a box with an open front. I then cut a couple of small slits in far right-hand corner of the "top", and positioned a couple of spots above the slits. I place an extra very dim spot in front of the enclosure, for a bit front fill.
    I then created the set. The foreground and background in the photograph were to be completely black, so the sides and floor of the enclosure were covered in black velvet. Two planks from an old fence were then balanced on a couple of bricks, and some dead butterflies added (eBay!). I deliberately left a large space behind the planks - the smoke needs to be behind and above the subject

    I then messed around with diffusers and snoots, and the size and shape of the holes in the card until I got what I wanted - gently lit subjects with some backlighting.

    Next, the smoke. I squirted some "smoke in a can", and promptly blew away my carefully placed subjects! <bangs head>

    Later, I tried again, more gently, squirting smoke under the planks this time. Better, but the smoke wasn't dense enough. I suddenly remembered that, as a boy, I set fire to some cocoa powder (I have no recollection why!), which didn't burn but smoked - a lot. So, I set fire to some cocoa, which sure enough smouldered and smoked away. That did the trick.

    An here's the shot. I'm not entirely happy with the position of the butterflies - I'm convinced their arrangement was better before I blew them off the plank, but however much I tried, I couldn't reproduce the original positioning!

    Incidentally, you might consider my camera choice for this type of work perverse ... a Leica M8!

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