Sometimes, creating a simple effect for a shoot can become a bit of a hassle. Let’s say you want to make an image of a cup of hot coffee. How difficult can it be? There’s a cup of coffee with steam emanating out of it, and you make a shot. You only realize when you begin to shoot that the amount of steam rising from the cup isn’t quite as dramatic as you expected it to be. Photographer Philip McCordall has a great fix:
McCordall’s approach doesn’t involve using a Photoshop trick. Instead he uses his get-up-and-go resourcefulness to produce an almost limitless supply of ‘steam’. The trick is in using hydrochloric acid and ammonia. Remember those jars full of colorful acids in the chemistry lab at school? They have some very interesting applications in photography.
Apply a small quantity of hydrochloric acid around one edge of the cup and apply a little bit of ammonia around the other edge. The two chemicals react to produce a thick smoke that mimics steam.
The smoke works not only in photographing a hot liquid, you could use it for a host of other photography ideas, too.
Please bear in mind hydrochloric acid is a strong agent and should always be handled with extreme care. The gas isn’t the most appealing either; exposure to it will definitely leave a bad taste in the mouth. Use a safety mask, goggles, and commons sense if you intend to try this at home.