Fog can add a fun layer of mystery and atmosphere to a photo-shoot. We associate fog or smoke with heat, power, magic, danger, and intrigue. Careful use of fog in your photography can help your photographs take on these attributes and better tell a story.
I’m not big into video games. Between balancing family time, work, personal photography projects, and writing for this blog, I just don’t make the time for playing video games very often. Portal and Portal 2 were exceptions to this. The games might be categorized as puzzle solvers, where the player has to navigate a series of increasingly complex mazes using a Portal gun, which creates a pair of inter-dimensional pathways that the player can place by firing the Portal gun. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to solve each level of the game.
Anyway, I’m a big Portal fan and received this replica Portal gun a few years ago as a gift. As I was rummaging around in my studio I saw the prop and decided it would make a great subject to experiment with fog and studio flash.
You’ll need a dark background for the fog to be visible. White seamless backdrops makes the fog almost invisible. I setup the Portal gun on a black table from ikea. The lighting setup is easy. I used a single large softbox with an Alien Bee strobe (triggered with Pocket Wizards) placed parallel to the table. Light from this position provided the nice highlights and soft falloff you see on the gun, and illuminated the fog.
The easiest and cheapest way I’ve found to generate fog is to buy one of these small Chauvet Hurricane 700 Fog Machines. This little fog machine is under $40.00 but generates plenty of fog for what you will need in a studio setting. I also got an extra bottle of fog juice, but I’ve used the fog machine on and off for over a year and still have not used all of the bottle of fog juice it came with.
Taking the Shot
The fog machine takes a few moments to warm up, and then you can release fog by pressing a button on a wired remote. I hand held the fog machine and fired fog towards the prop and then quickly fired some shots with the camera from various angles before the fog dissipated. The fog that comes out when you first press the button is more defined and swirls around to form more interesting shapes. A few moments after you release the fog, it spreads out and becomes less defined and just reduces the contrast in your scene. I use a box fan to quickly clear the room of fog between shots.
Later, I used the fog machine to simulate heat and steam coming off a baked chicken. I feel that the strobe light in the shot below is too artificial. I’d like to try a shot like this again using natural window light instead. I’d also like to try using the fog machine during a portrait session and see what other interesting effects I can achieve.