The judge (when asked after the competition) liked this picture because of its clear rising smoke, the red amber above the candle edge, and a uniform dark background. It took me a few experimental runs to find the right candle and learn how to extinguish the flame so as to produce a smoke plume in the frame. Side lighting came from a desk lamp, and home-made screens were used to shield the camera and the background, directing light to the candle. The focus and exposure were set manually. Before printing, I slightly increased the contrast and clarity, and cropped the picture to fit the display dimensions.
Nikon 50mm 1/80 f2.0 ISO 640