Tag Archives: smoke

Music Photography: Diving Station

Manchester based band Diving station are releasing their first EP today at Aatma, 14-16 Faraday St, M1 1BE. I was fortunate to photograph them last August when they visited Edinburgh.

Manchester based band at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh

Diving station at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh. From left to right, George Burrage, Sean Rogan, Anna McLuckie, Barny Kimberley.

I really love long exposures of seascapes, because of their effect on water and clouds. I had dreamt of combining a long seascape exposure with people in the shot, and when I proposed this idea to Anna McLuckie, the lead singer, she was very enthusiastic. The picture above consists of two photographs, one with a relatively short exposure to get the band and a second frame taken without the band but with a two minute exposure. It was a typical Scottish summer day (that was the only day where the band was available for a shoot), but I knew that if we waited until after sunset, the light would be soft and there would likely be some colours in the sky. I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at a photograph of this nature.

Manchester based band Diving Stattion at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh.

I like unusual compositions, and since the sky over Silverknowes beach looked really interesting, I decided to give it the lion’s share of the frame.

Manchester based band Diving Stattion at Silverknowes beach, Edinburgh.

More conventional composition this time. I always shoot these.

The band logo has a lot of blue in it, so I wanted to give the other beach shots a blue colour cast. This is easily done by setting the white balance of the camera to tungsten and lighting the band with an off camera flash and CTO “orange” gel on it to give them proper skin tones. I worked a number of compositions with two of them shown above.

The photo shoot started earlier in the day, in a stairwell, believe it or not. These kinds of locations are a blessing and a curse at the same time. I’m sure you get the curse part, but the constraints imposed by locations like these allow one’s creativity to be pushed, and one’s frame of mind to be stretched. I’m always up for a challenge.

Manchester based band Diving Station group shot, straight on

The more people in the picture, the harder it is to get everyone looking good. Fortunately, every band member liked this photo.

I always need to warm up at the beginning of a photo shoot, and so we started by taking very straightforward band photos.

Manchester based band Diving Station group shot, from above

I always try different angles, either from above or below.

Then I started looking for different angles.

Manchester based band Diving Station, "behind bars".

I always look for elements of design such s lines. The stair railing offered an opportunity to frame each member of the band. I also liked the pipes above their heads and therefore included them in my composition.

And compositions.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

Adding smoke completely changes the atmosphere of the location. Pun intended.

I had brought with me a smoke machine, because I thought this could really add some atmosphere to the photos. One light behind to backlight the smoke and a light in front for the band.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

I love silhouettes, so I just had to try to light the band just with the backlight. I really like this moody pic.

After I get the “obvious” shot, I like to ask “what if..?”. For example “what if I switch off the main light?”

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell

When I sense I’m running out of ideas, I just try something. Anything. So I put a bare speedlight on the stairs, camera right, just to see what would happen. Lucky me.

Usually, a number of mistakes occur when I start working my subject and lighting. Fortunately, some of them turn out great. At the time I didn’t think much of the shot above. I think it was because it wasn’t what I really was after, but the band immediately liked it. And I have to say it has become one of my favourite shots of the day.

Manchester based band Diving Station in a smokey stairwell, "behind bars".

Since I liked this composition, I decided to revisit it with a different lighting set up and the smoke.

With the smoke and more moody lighting scheme, I explored some of the earlier compositions. I never thought you could have this much fun with a smoke machine in a staircase.



Oil and Smoke at Joseph Pearce’s Bar

I like to challenge myself photographically, and close-up/macro photography offers plenty of those. But since that genre of photography isn’t part of my core activities, I had always postponed delving into the close-up world.

I needed to make a commitment, and as fate would have it, a few months ago, Bryan F. Peterson of the Perfect Picture School of Photography was offering his close-up photography class again for one last time. So I jumped at the opportunity. If you don’t know Bryan, he is a wonderful photographer, instructor and best selling author. Look him up on the web!

That class turned out to be a gold mine of visual ideas. One of Bryan’s assignment for the class was to photograph oil drops in water, using a colorful and out of focus background. At the time, I chose to do another assignment, but swore try out this idea after the class. A few weeks before Christmas time, I was able to find some colorful gift wrapping paper to use as a background and try it out.


Click on image to enlarge

It’s a very simple idea, but the results are quite striking.

In “Creative Digital Photography: 52 Weekend Projects” by Chris Gatcum, I came across another close-up photography idea that I wanted to try. Photographing smoke from an incense stick. Like most close-up work, this requires a lot of patience. And very good hand/eye coordination since the auto focus on your camera is of no help and one has to focus manually.


Click on image to enlarge

The two pictures above show some of the wonderful shapes the smoke from a incense stick can take. Note that I changed the colors in Photoshop to obtain more vivid images.

Seven of these images of oil drops and smoke are on exhibit at Joseph Pearce’s bar in Edinburgh until the beginning of June. They are part of the Edinburgh Science Festival & Spring exhibition organized by Vanessa Davila of “Delicartessen”.


Oil & Smoke pictures at Joseph Pearce’s bar.