I have always been fascinated by candles. They are so beautiful when lit, giving off a soft and ethereal glow. But when blown out they become possibly even more interesting. The smoke curls and billows and dances through the air, as though delighting in being set free from its flame.
I decided to capture this fleeting moment as best I could. I wanted the final image to be graphic, impactful and rich. I found a half-used candle in a beautiful deep red, and set about creating a set for the image, as can be seen in the below behind-the-scenes shot. If you can’t tell, I was doing this just before Christmas. I hung a dish cloth in a similar colour behind the candle to create a nice harmony throughout the image.
Now that the scene was set, I turned to the photographic aspect. As usual, I shot this with my trusty Fujifilm X-T1. I mounted the camera with my Fujinon 80mm f/2.8 Macro lens. A macro lens is a necessity for a shot of this nature. I mounted the camera to a tripod to make things easier for myself by worrying less about framing and focus. As for lighting, I used a single strode - the Godox AD400pro - in a 30” softbox with a 1/2 CTO gel to light the scene. The CTO gel was to give the scene an extra touch of warmth. The softbox created a lovely, soft, directional light. I positioned the light above, to the left, and behind the candle. This position was chosen very carefully to create maximum depth in the image. First, by positioning the light above the subject, the rim of the candle is illuminated and the rest of the image falls into shadow. Second, the light was moved to one side of the subject to bring out the crevices and details in the candle wax. Finally, the scene was slightly backlit to control light on the backdrop and to illuminate the smoke particles as they left the wick.
After a couple dozen attempts to freeze the smoke in a nice shape, the final image was captured. While editing the photo in Lightroom I deepened the reds and brought out golden tones in the highlights.
I am personally very happy with the resulting photo. I feel that despite the simple nature of the subject, I have managed to capture a dynamic image through proper use of lighting and timing - the basic elements of photography. If this scene were lit in a more flat, head-on way, it would lose all impact. The smoke would be a listless grey and the candle would be seen for what it is, a half-melted stick of red wax. I feel this image is an excellent example of the importance of controlling light in a scene for maximum effect.
Thanks for reading,