Our director had the opportunity to use Enola Gaye smoke grenades for her recent photo shoot with Desireé Marie of Into the New Photography and Geoff McNamara of The Smack Photography. It was a surprising and fun experience for all three of them as first time grenades users.
I’ve had my eye on getting some smoke grenades for a couple months and saving them for a shoot with my dragon priestess cosplay. I had been looking up ideas for creating an atmospheric effect involving smoke or vapour and decided on the coloured smoke emitting grenades. As I like to shoot outside usually far away from any hope of a power outlet for a smoke machine the self combusting grenades were my choice. The grenades are really handy, they self light after pulling a cord. No lighter or matches required. Originally designed for paintball tournaments and adopted by photographers they are heavily pigmented in multiple colours. I chose black and purple.
I’d recommend getting a helper to ignite the grenade and put it where it needs to go. They only give off smoke for 30 to 110 seconds and the photographer needs to be in position for the shot. Also the model needs to be prepared for the amounts of smoke these babies gulch out.
I had it in mind to get the smoke to come out of a hand made censer inspired by pottery and architecture I had seen in concept art for Skyrim. The first one we used was an extra large black smoke grenade that positively gulched so much smoke it was overwhelming. I was not prepared with the force by which it came out of the tube and how it wafted up into my robes and in my face. It also stained my costume black in some places but that shot was worth it! The stained washed out with some gentle soap and hand scrubbing.
Geoff of the Smack Photography describes what he likes about the smoke grenades.
The contours, shapes and textures that can be created with the right lighting. Adds another dimension to the image by using the shadows. Allows the viewer to experience more of a “3D” aspect to a flat or one dimensional image.
Sensing the direction of the wind and air currents is important for using these. Our second attempt had all the smoke rising into the air and disappearing almost right away with no lingering mists as the wind was blowing it away form us. Bye smoke, thanks for sticking around…
After the first few times we decided to ignite the last grenade and throw it under some fallen trees. This effect was much better, the smoke tendrils rose out from multiple points creating a larger field of purple haze that gradually lifted above into the trees for some beautiful shots. Even when it was faint it cast a purple hue into the air, adding a mysterious affect that I really loved.
Some tips for using the coloured smoke grenades;
- Do not use them if surrounded by flammable material. They emit sparks when first ignited and can set your environment on fire.
- Get a friend to help. While the photographer and model are in position get the friend to ignite the grenade and put it where you want it.
- Get a few extra grenades and set them off before you start shooting. Then you’ll have a better sense of how the air currents are moving the smoke around.
- Don’t use them when its windy, the smoke will just get blown away.
Author, Amanda Eccleston