Vaping With Anonymous

The idea of smoke and photographing it, had always been an interest of mine since I first picked up a camera. That ghostly personality of its silver and grey curls, dancing in the air is ominous yet encouragingly pleasant to look at. It's like there is this entity in the room (that's always present) that you see for the first time.

Like many other photographers who want to capture this curious texture, I too started with a simple incense stick setup. I went out to the closest black magic store I could find; in my case it happened to be Kensington Market in Toronto. I picked up a pack of sticks and was ready to hotbox the studio. 

At first, I had a difficult time figuring out the camera settings and how to focus on the texture itself, with the movement been so random. Once i finally figured it out, I started snapping away and the room filled with this eerie haze. It was so great to have captured images that I would once Google, and set as my smartphone wallpapers.

I started adding colored gels to the flashes and even disturbed the flow of the smoke by waving a piece of cardboard in front of it. This is one example of photography where the old saying, "no two pictures are ever the same," is clearly defined.

After years of practicing with incense sticks, I wanted to do something new and unique. Something outside of the box that would be fresh, exciting and give me more of a challenge to work with. This was also the beginning of the new "vape" era. 

Many people around me, including friends, were getting into the fashion of vaping. After noticing its distinct characteristics, I had to bring in a vape artist into the studio. I asked a friend to help me out and without much further delay, there was actually someone hot-boxing in the studio. We tried to be as safe as possible, by using nicotine free vape and by taking several breaks for the room to clear out. Whether or not nicotine free vape is harmless, is not my area of expertise and cannot comment on it. I am sure there are side effects and I encourage you to speak to a specialist, if you are planning on starting. 

Once the lighting was set, we were ready to flash some smoke. I knew that I wanted to use colored gels to create something a bit more vibrant and visually interesting. I was thrilled with what I had captured!


So come January 3rd, 2017-a quiet, smoke free evening in The Midnight Studios. I left my house to get inspired and ended up finding my way to a party market where you can buy masks, costumes, and various party supplies. Walking through the aisles, I came by the anonymous mask and I couldn't resist. I ended up picking it up, along with a couple other accessories and rushed back to the studio.

I called my friend, the vape artist and asked him if he felt like vaping with Anonymous. It didn't take much to convince him and The Midnight Studios were ready to blow some smoke!

This was definitely the biggest and by far the most creative smoke photography shoot I have done. I am usually a strobist photographer, where I use multiple speedlites (flashes) to create a photograph; however, for this particular shoot, I used various continuous lighting setups. Most of the artwork in this series was taken with a combination of cheap LED video lights and the flash light on my cell phone. It was the first time I had used continous lighting for a portrait shoot, which in turn, made this shoot challenging and rewarding.

Anytime I create content, words are not enough to describe the ideas that are going through my head. I never have a concrete plan when it comes to creating art. I let me imagination wander and I basically try to replicate what things look like or sound like in my head. Sometimes I am successful; other times, I learn a whole bunch of new ways on how not to do something.


Until the next frame,

The Creative Owl.

Vinay Dhalla