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Photographing in a Smoke Tunnel

Updated on September 5, 2013
Use by permission to illustrate a technique. NASA does not in any way explicitly or implicitly convey NASA's endorsement of commercial goods or services or expressions formulated in this article.
Use by permission to illustrate a technique. NASA does not in any way explicitly or implicitly convey NASA's endorsement of commercial goods or services or expressions formulated in this article. | Source

Car manufactures and airplane manufactures have been using specially designed smoke tunnels to test how wind friction interacts with their vehicles and to see what new ways they can come up with to find innovative ways to reduce wind drag.

They often photograph the test in order to get a better idea as to how the wind hits and bounces off the vehicle's surface.

You can actually do a scaled down version of this technique right in your home, garage or studio. You need a wind machine; a large fan, buy or make your own dyes and blow it against a model.

Here is a tutorial in how to make your DIY colored dye smoke bomb, which is very safe to do at home and it's non toxic. But this is just one part, you still need the mechanism to move the air.

A simpler way is to get some colored powder and dispense a continuous stream into the path of the air. The process is similar but lacks the intensity of colored smoke.

As far as where to do the shoot keep in mind that you need some space to allow the air stream to build and move in a current towards the model. Pose your models as if they were fighting against the air flow. Much like what you have seen on some news coverage of hurricanes.

The project works better is you dispense the smoke through a thin tube. This will create a more noticeable air stream and you can control it better.

Once you have the fan, build a "tube' by rolling a piece of cardboard into a tube shape much like what the cardboard tube which holds paper towels, then make another piece that has one end fit into the circumference of the fan but is thinner at the other end. It should resemble a cone.

Tape both cardboard pieces together until you get a funnel shape. Make a hole on top of the large funnel piece and dispense the colored die into it or simply let it fall slowly into the back of the fan. Use the previous link to create a "smoke" bomb as this achieves a better effect.

Your set up should be done against a dark background to emphasize the smoke effect more. Have your models exaggerate their expressions to simulate an effort to stand against a very strong wind. Use clothing that freely moves with wind such as ties, loose fitting shirts, skirts and so on. They give the scene a better and more realist feeling of blowing wind.

You can be very creative with your subjects. The technique is also quite useful for using it with sports themes, automotive, bikes, still life and so on.

The smoke is what creates the illusion of movement not the wind itself, so using as little wind as possible may be required depending on your subject matter.

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Natashalh: Thank you

    • Natashalh profile image


      5 years ago from Hawaii

      So super cool!


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