First, I'm new to StackExchange, so I apologize if I'm posting in the wrong area...

What is the strange visual element emanating from the hammer in this picture? It looks like an upside-down white flame. I wondered if it was light reflecting from the hammer handle, but it looks different from what I'd expect for that, with little flecks present outside the arc that a light trail would create.

The photo is of a metalworker in action, and the hammer had just struck the metal when I took the photo.

What is this?

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about physics, not photography. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


What you're seeing is smoke what I am assuming is coming from the hot metal as the worker hit it. This smoke hit a light beam (probably coming from a window somewhere in the room) and was lit up, just as you shot the picture.

Not an artefact, just reality and in my opinion a nice addition to the photo.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! I hadn't thought of that. I didn't see any smoke during the photo shoot, so it must have dispersed very quickly. It's also strange to me that the smoke would be coming from the end of the hammer's handle rather than closer to the hot metal. But smoke is the best explanation so far. \$\endgroup\$
    – user84798
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ That smoke isn't coming from the hammer's handle (or the hammer at all). It's just being drafted upwards due to airflow and, likely, heat. It actually appears to be on the same plane as the metal object \$\endgroup\$
    – timvrhn
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 14:37

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