This picture combines a couple of things I picked up a while ago and had sitting around waiting to be used in a picture. The first was a battered old remote control toy car. While I was poking around the local flea market I came across an old Greek guy selling toys from a blanket on the floor. They were mostly old and broke and this car was no exception. It had long since lost the remote control, one of the wing mirrors was gone, it was scratched all over and most of the stickers were peeling off. I asked how much he wanted for it and when he said two dollars I took it. I figured at the very least it would make an interesting silhouette for a shot.
The other thing I came across was a party fog machine. I found this in a local Crazy Clarks. I had read about these a few times on the strobist web site, but just assumed they were a US thing and would never turn up here in Australia. I was pleasantly surprised to find one tucked away on a bottom shelf in the Christmas decorations section.
After testing the fog machine, I found it didn't work anything like I was expecting. First of all, there is no control over the amount of smoke it makes (lots or none are the choices), and secondly it only creates a blast of smoke for about 10 seconds before it has to recharge. I think in my mind I had the idea it would be like the fog from dry ice that gentle cascades down hill and stays close to the floor. This machine is more like an out of control bonfire that just blasts plumes of thick grey smoke in all directions. Still, it did produce smoke so it did what it said on the box.
I formulated a shot in my mind that involved the car driving out of the fog, headlamps ablaze with the fog lit red from the back lights. All I needed to do now was work out a way to give the car headlamps. The first thing was to remove the stickers that were substituting for headlamps on the model. Next I unfastened the car body and took a Dremel tool to the plastic to cut out two headlight shaped holes. While I was at it, I also attacked the inside of the car and basically gutted it. This let me squeeze a Sunpak 383 inside the body with the flash facing forward towards the headlight holes.
A quick test picture revealed that I was getting a nice headlight effect, but the two holes looked like ... well holes really and not like headlights. What they needed was some kind of lens. A quick rifle through the old filter sample pack turned up a tough spun frosted gel. Cut in two and taped inside the body over the headlamp holes it had the effect of diffusing the light slightly and making the headlights look less like holes.
With the car prepared, I set up the shot. For this I placed two large softboxes overhead but on very low power. I put an SB-28 in front of the car firing directly at it and a red gelled Sunpak 383 behind it to light up the smoke. I put the camera on a tripod and manually focused on the Mercedes badge and then connected my remote shutter release. With everything in place I set off a blast of smoke and fired away. Playing back the pictures on the camera immediately revealed a problem. The smoke was overwhelming the picture and all I could see was a foggy outline of the car. What I needed was some fog control. I grabbed a desk fan and placed it as close to front centre of the car as I could get it. I now had the smoke blowing forward and the fan pushing it back.
The resulting pictures looked pretty good so I pulled them into Lightroom and tweaked the colour slightly and also added a dark vignette. I picked the best one and finished it off by cloning the right door mirror, flipping it over and pasting it onto the left door.
While the smoke machine was not exactly what I was expecting, I think
it will be a handy addition to the
junk pile photo supply cupboard and no doubt will be useful at some point in
Setup shot here: Smokin' Setup
Learn how to light: www.strobist.com