Here are the resuts of some quick test shots using black lights, smoke and light painting.
The subject was a vintage glass bottle with a ground glass stopper. I noticed a lot of these in the shop of Yusuf the chemist in Mombasa in the movie Inception! As a chemist, I’m always interested in vintage laboratory and apothecary items.
I made the pink fluorescent liquid by soaking the felt insert from a pink highlighter pen in some water. It worked really well! Here’s more information about how to make liquids that glow under black light.
For the black light source, I used a UV Cannon and a 12″ UV fluorescent tube.
I generated the smoke using a stick of incense. To light up the smoke, I used a Paul C. Buff X800 White Lightning strobe with a pink gel, and a 10º honeycomb grid and barndoors to prevent light spill on the bottle. The background was a black nylon fabric. The bottle was placed on a piece of white foam core.
I’ve used smoke quite often as an interesting background – it works best with a dark background and backlighting. In this case, I had the light to the right of the camera and behind the bottle, out of frame. For people, I have a fog machine that gives great smoke effects on a larger scale.
To get the above shot, 1. Pink Potion & Smoke, I set the camera on a tripod and used second curtain sync (slow sync) and a 2.5 sec exposure and CyberSyncs to trigger the flash. I was below the table with the smoking incense, using a remote control to trigger the camera.
For the next shot, 2. Pink Potion & Nebula, I used painting with light to create a nebula-like effect. For the the background, I used white seamless paper with a black nylon fabric covering it. With the black fabric in place, and the camera set to bulb, I started with a couple seconds of blacklight, then shut them off. While the shutter was still open and the studio in darkness, I removed the fabric to reveal the white seamless paper, I painted it with a Maglite flash light, with a blue gel over it some cool the light a bit, then closed the shutter with the remote. It took a few tries to get a background that I liked!
The third shot was done in a similar way as the second, except that I also used an LED flashlight and did not use the blue gel on the Maglite. The LED flashlight actually has three separate beams so it created trails in groups of 3, making an interesting abstract design.
If you are in need of a unique background in your still life or product photography, you might want to give these a try. If you have some similar examples, please share links to them in the comment section!