Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Smoke and Mirrors

Happy Halloween! This has become a fun holiday for old and young alike, so enjoy the fun and embrace the creepiness. Try your hand at creating some otherworldly images today to stimulate your creativity.

This image was created using black light, a light source that responds to florescent colors. But you can create similar looks without blacklight by using reflective items like glass bottles, or items made out of shiny black plastic which will reflect any bright colors that are placed in front of them or behind them.

You can use either a non-reflective black background like a piece of fabric (felt or fleece or suede), or as in this case, a sheet of dark reflective mylar. Place the main subjects in front of the background, leaving a space of 1 to 3 feet between them and the background.

What you see in this image is just the reflection of 3 clear glass bottles reflected in the mylar, not the bottles themselves. The slight natural waviness of the mylar causes the bottles to appear distorted and unreal. Rolled up sheets of brightly colored paper were placed in front of the bottles so that they reflected into them, creating an array of colorful designs.

The trick is to set this up after dark in an unlit room, and place 2 or 3 lights off to the sides of the scene. Make sure the lights shine on the colored papers so that they are lit and will reflect well into the bottles or plastic.

The lights can be light boxes (the things we used to place slides on in the old days to view them for editing) or the less expensive and more readily available LED work lights sold at:



Hunt's Photo and Video

These lights come in a variety of sizes and in varying price ranges. I suggest starting with the least expensive ones you can find to see how you like it. I have not used any of the exact lights in the links above, and am not endorsing any particular light, but it will give you a start in exploring what is available out there.

By the way, these small LED lights are also great for macro photography of flowers and other subjects indoors in a darkened room.

A tripod will be needed since the exposures will most likely be quite long. Also, use a moderate telephoto lens which will provide more flexibility for where you set the lights and the colored papers. 

A small aperture of f/16 or more is best for good depth of field which will keep everything relatively sharp.

Experiment with the positioning of the lights for best effect. Have a buddy with you to reposition the lights and the colored papers so that you can view the scene through the viewfinder and create exactly what looks best to you. Happy shooting and Happy Halloween!

Shutter Speed 15 seconds.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 155mm. Camera: Canon 40D (an oldie but a goodie).  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin."  -- Charles Schultz via Linus from "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"