The 4th of July was approaching and lots of people were posting themed photos all around the globe. I kept seeing the use of sparklers and smokebombs, so much so, that  I inevitably ended up in a full-on conversation and planning session with my girlfriend Tatyana


The one thing that kept me from attempting any use of these in my photos was that the results were very hit or miss. If it looked good, it looked damn good. Otherwise, it was simply an overly active distraction from the subject. I had also never seen it in action but rather the end result so I never knew what all went into it and whether it was a difficult task or not. You could definitely see the differences between someone who thinks it through as the artist versus just waving a cardboard tube around with smoke barreling out the top. If we were to do it, it would need to look good!


We gave it a try! I must say, the results are pretty good especially considering it was our first attempt. Here’s how it went down:

We first arrived at Jenkins Creek, a small little nature walk within a short distance of our home, where we scouted for some cool sun leaks. When I was setting up my speedlights, I noticed one of the tripod mounts was broken (plastic is not the way to go!). Immediately I was worried I wouldn’t have enough lighting to light her whole body especially while shooting into the sun. Regardless, we kept the momentum strong!

Right away I spotted an area with sun shining through. I popped on my 85mm 1.8 and fired a couple shots. My camera was struggling with locking focus as the sun was too strong so we decided to try a new area. I’m glad we did!

We found some sun that came right between a few tree trunks which created some rather interesting spotlights.

I placed Tatyana directly in front (totally her idea) so that the sun was to her 7. I then placed my 43″ octabox at camera left (her right) to counter the shadows of the face that the sun was creating.

We popped off a couple shots but I was still having troubles focusing into the sun while smoke drifted everywhere, including all in her face! Luckily we still ended up with some fantastic results…

Then it dawned on me…

Why not take the speedlight I thought I couldn’t use and place it somewhere in the tree for some backlighting?

So I threw a Magmod Magsphere on it and did exactly that. Although it didn’t turn out like I had planned, it sure lit up the smoke in an interesting way! Now we’re on to something…

But just like that the sun was hardly there and the mosquitoes bit like crazy! It was time to act fast!

We quickly picked up our stuff and moved a few yards over. This time there was some foliage and purple flowers in the ambiance. It was a good chance to ditch the smoke bomb and get some regular shots for a less dramatic feel. Or is it?

Finally, we whipped out some more smoke bombs. We had even tried blue but it just wasn’t the same level of awesomeness as the green. We fired almost 400 shots in 45 minutes using all sorts of combinations, poses and lighting positions. At one point we had smoke barreling about, sun flares, light flashes, people walking about and even wildlife stirring about. It was pretty active!

But as always, the sun started it’s other worldly journeys, falling behind the trees. As soon as it was out of sight, we called it a wrap. After all, we had some partying to do and this shoot was surely a success!

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