Smoky Whiskey

Smoky Whiskey - student project

The story I want to tell here is a glass of midnight whiskey; I've been sleepless at night lately and a friend shared with me her personal remedy of taking a sip of whiskey before bedtime. I thought this story fits nicely for the theme of this class project.


Complementary Colors

Smoky Whiskey - image 1 - student project

I first identified the complementary colors associated with my subject matter, in this case: orange and blue. I emulated Tabitha's example by also incorporating garnishes in the same orange color family (cinnamon sticks, star anise). Because I don't drink whiskey, I brewed some herbal tea instead. It's a relaxing beverage that helps induce sleepiness too, isn't it?  ;)


First Attempt

Smoky Whiskey - image 2 - student project

My first attempt did NOT come out well at all. I was using a small point-and-shoot camera and very quickly realized it wasn't the right tool for the task on hand. The image above is already an edited version - I shot in RAW and adjusted colors, brightened some areas, brought up the shadows, etc. but it was just not working out.


Second Attempt

Smoky Whiskey - image 3 - student project

The next night, I dug out my dinosaur DSLR (Canon 20D) and attached my 50mm 1.4 prime lens to it. I laid out the whiskey scene again and used the same lighting setup as my first attempt. Two black foamcore boards flanking the whiskey and an additional light positioned on left not shown in the setup above.


Smoky Whiskey - image 4 - student project

I shot in both Manual and AV modes, experimenting and switching between shutter speeds and ISO settings. I stayed between 1.4 and 3.2 for my aperture setting, and dialed down the metering to -0.6 to -1 because... I had no idea what I'm doing technically. *insert awkward emoji here*

I took about 130 shots total. The real smoke in the background was generated by lighting up some sacred sage that I use when I meditate. I had to work fast because my DSLR is so old it kept shutting down since the battery wasn't holding enough charge; it was getting stressful so I might as well start meditating.


Smoky Whiskey - image 5 - student project

In Lightroom CC, I adjusted White Balance to get a more bluish tone. I also cleaned up the background to make the black deeper and brightened the liquid to make it look more translucent.


Final Images

Smoky Whiskey - image 6 - student project

Smoky Whiskey - image 7 - student project

Smoky Whiskey - image 8 - student project

While shooting these images I aimed and set the focus on the star anise inside the glass. But when I inspected this in post, the sharpest element in every photo is the weaving of the pale blue tea cloth! It's so detailed I can see every stitch... wth!? Not only is my star anise NOT in focus, none of my images is tack sharp or crispy (and yes, I used a very sturdy tripod).

If you have any suggestions (or camera settings), I'd like to reshoot this scene and go for a third attempt. Please leave your comment below or send me a message at Instagram @moonberry.




Moonberry Moon

Creative Director and Social Media Maven