Photographing a Tea Bag Tower… as you do!

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IMG_5521Ok, so funny story, Jane a friend who’s staying with us at the minute was making a point of balancing the used tea bags in this huge tower and as I saw it standing there with steam rising from the top of it like a chimney I thought ‘That would make a great photo!’ And of course me being me I couldn’t just take a photo, I had to make a blog post out of it!

So with my friend Darren helping out, we headed to the studio to see what we could do.

Initially I took something with no lighting, just a low aperture on my 50mm prime lens and Canon 600D and here’s how it came out (opposite).

We then moved on to lighting it and trying to capture the steam. Darren had to keep taking the top two tea bags and dropping them into boiling water and replacing them to get the steam effect we’d seen initially. Here are a few samples. These were shot at 1/160, f2.5, ISO 100 and the lighting was done by two speed lights  (Yongnuo speed light) one behind and one to the right, both at 24mm zoom and 1/32 power behind, 1/64 to the right. There’s much fiddling can be done though tweaking the power levels and angles.

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You can see furter down in the photos Darren took exactly how the set up was but the key is to get at ‘eye level’ to the bags get in nice and close and put a dark sheet in the background to create the strong contrast.

I suggested to Darren that we should try an incense stick smoking behind the tea bags to fake the steam but it didn’t look authentic so we gave up. That soon drew us into the lovely smoke trails though and before we knew it we’d ditched the tea bags and moved onto a real project. Take a look at how we got on in the post How to photograph smoke trails.