The wonderful effects created by dust and vapour

Our atmosphere is the most amazing place.

As photographers we know the atmosphere is where we get our best action. Bad weather makes for great photographs. Sometimes it is not just the weather that is great. All sorts of other particles, droplets, dust and vapours really add to atmospheric action. These things provide us with a whole range of great effects and fun photography.

What to look for…

So how can we exploit the benefits of these localised changes to the atmosphere? It is simple really, like at any other time we first need to look for great light. So, the best times to get these effects are first thing in the morning and in the last light of the day. The light coming in at an angle provides great illumination of the odd dust disturbance, or rising steam cloud.

The light aside, to capture these effects we have to find places where local effects of particles and vapour can be found. So here are some places to look for the effects that are so eye-catching.

Cold mornings… Car exhausts; steam rising from grates in the ground; breath of people and animals; cold places, warm steam. Yes, all these give the sort of local steam and vapour that we want. These are in fact effects we can produce ourselves. Hot water on cold ground can produce a wonderful vapour that catches the light and provides a great ‘shoot-through’ opportunity for catching the early morning or evening light.

Dust… On hot dry days dust can produce the most wonderfully atmospheric conditions for shooting. Of course dust is double fun because it often also colours the light as well as creating great local conditions for a shot. Again you can create dust effects by shooting on dusty ground as someone drives a car by the camera. Animals, people and vehicles are all great for creating dust if you can find a place where it is common place. And, it is fun to in a very light wind to spread it around yourself.

Heat… There are just so many things! Steaming cups, food, baths, engines, steam trains, water-cooling towers, showers – the list is endless.

Water spray… Fountains, waves, hoses, high wind and water, watering cans – there are just so many ways to create a fine spray. Once you have the spray, artificially created or naturally, it is all about catching some wonderful light as you shoot through it. With water spray there is also the added benefit that if the light is strong you may also get a rainbow effect too which makes for some great extra light effects.

Children… I think some of the most fun photographing spray, dust and vapour can be had with children. If you can think of a way to get kids to spray water the ensuing mayhem is just brilliant photographic material.

It really just comes down to finding, or making, some great light and putting it together with your vapour or dust. Lets look at some inspiring pictures to give you ideas for seeking out fun dust, spray and vapour shots.

Here is one you can try in the kitchen. Great textures here…

Water vapour by Di's Eyes, on Flickr

Water vapour by Di’s Eyes, on Flickr
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Water vapour by Di’s Eyes, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Trains are pretty atmospheric by themselves, but add smoke or steam and…

Steaming under the bridge by midcheshireman, on Flickr

Steaming under the bridge by midcheshireman, on Flickr
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Steaming under the bridge by midcheshireman, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

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It takes all sorts, but if you are inventive enough you can use steam for a great backdrop…

Steam of madness by giorgia *, on Flickr

Steam of madness by Giorgia on Flickr

Exhaust vapour and vapour trails are fun ways to capture localised effects too…

• Red Arrows • by Netkonnexion, on Flickr

• Red Arrows • by Netkonnexion, on Flickr
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• Red Arrows • by Netkonnexion, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Condensing breath can be a source of some fun pictures…
Check out this search on Google Images… Search: “Condensing breath images”

Condensing breath photo

Condensing breath can be fun to photograph and provides interest for the viewer.
Seen on: Contrails Are Condensation, But Not Like Your Breath @ contrailscience.com/

Street scenes with steam or vapour are great…

Steam #streetphotography by Joe Pemberton, on Flickr

Steam #streetphotography by Joe Pemberton, on Flickr
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Steam #streetphotography by Joe Pemberton, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Great light silhouettes make the scene something special…

Steam from old City Hall by simon.carr, on Flickr

Steam from old City Hall by simon.carr, on Flickr
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Steam from old City Hall by simon.carr, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Here is a fun idea… I am sure there are lots of places where this sort of food preparation does the trick!

Steaming-Dumplings by T in CHINA - Until they grow Tea i Switzerland : ), on Flickr

Steaming-Dumplings by T in CHINA – Until they grow Tea i Switzerland : ), on Flickr
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Steaming-Dumplings by T in CHINA – Until they grow Tea i Switzerland : ), on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Dust provides great creative potential…

Chalk Bluff Dust by pendeho, on Flickr

Chalk Bluff Dust by pendeho, on Flickr
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Chalk Bluff Dust by pendeho, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Colorfully Cold by Ryan Taylor Photography, on Flickr

Colorfully Cold by Ryan Taylor Photography, on Flickr
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Colorfully Cold by Ryan Taylor Photography, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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