Photographing Abstracts with Colored Powder
Abstract color bursts are easy to create and not that expensive to do . There are several colored powders that can be safely used to simulate explosions of colors. The best method is to place some of this colored powder into a paper bag, blow air into it while you twist the top of the bag thus trapping the air inside then have an assistant pop the bag next to the model.
There are several manufacturers which carry the stuff in many vivid colors and the price is very modest. The best source is always the Internet. You can also make your own very cheaply with simple ingredients such as food coloring and baby powder. This works better than the stuff you can get commercially due in part to the consistency of the baby powder..
Be mindful that although this colored powder is safe it can still irritate the eyes, so have your models strike a pose but with their eyes shut and while holding their breaths. You will have to clean their faces afterwards or better yet, pour water on them. The powder is very similar to taking colored chalk and grounding it.
This will spread the powder into the surrounding area and on the model. Your goal is to capture images that feature the model as he or she is enveloped by the colored powder.
You can also stand on a platform high above the model and launch some of the powder on top of the model. If you are more arts and crafts minded and posses some creativity then consider using a long cardboard tube, into which you have deposited the powder, which is then attached to a leaf blower or strong hair blow-dryer and blow the powder into place this way. This is more effective and the burst can be controlled somewhat better. Try to direct the flow towards the back of the model or right above her.
You will need a zoom lens capable of cropping thus eliminating the assistant and any distracting element from entering the scene.
You can use two basic variations of the theme; one is to present your models in a clean mostly white clothing so that it contrasts withe color of the powder or you can use a similar white clothing and smear some of the color on it before you create the powder burst. This tends to make the models be like "part" of the color.
If you want to see some very similar results there is a celebration that takes place in India and neighboring countries that revolves around the theme of spreading colored chalk powder into a multitude of people. This festival is called the Holi.
"Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hindu mythology. Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly." Wikipedia
Another variation which is not that much different is to eliminate the use of people and just capture images of the powder explosion. This is the abstract variation of the theme. For a more abstract orientation consider capturing images of parts of the body such as hands as they "snap" the powder into each other.
If going the paper bag and no person route, then set the popping of the bags to occur against a dark backdrop to emphasize the color more.
For equipment you will need to have a flash unit capable of freezing the action and a high speed camera set up. Remember that you should also have a camera capable of firing several times in rapid sequence.
India's Color Celebration
© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez