Playing With Fire

FireWebI had this idea for a picture that I had been anxious to try for several weeks. So I finally got together with some friends and asked them to model for this idea. In my original plan I wanted shoot with this beat up stone wall that runs into an abandoned building in our downtown area. I arrived early to set up lights and do some lighting test. I decided to first test the sparklers I had purchased for the shoot. When I lit it a flame about two inches long shot from it along with a ton of smoke. I knew I would have to shoot several shots to get the look I wanted, so I knew there would be a lot of smoke. Being in the downtown area meant someone would call the police for sure. So a quick phone call later I had permission to shoot on some private property out in the country.

We set up a single strobe in a small octa box on a boom arm, which we covered with a full CTO gel. Once I set it to the proper power it became time to test the exposure time with the sparklers. These little things throw out a ton of light, more than you might expect. My first exposure was f11 at 30 seconds and was totally overexposed. I backed it up to 15 seconds and got the same. In the end I settled on ISO 400, f11, 1 sec. exposure. This gave me a proper balance of strobe and sparklers. To light the wall behind my models I placed a hot shoe flash on the ground aiming back up at it with a full CTO gel. This was fired by slave while my strobe was fired by wirelessly by a Pocket Wizard. With all the elements in place all that was left was focus.

My camera was set on a tripod using a 70-200mm lens. I had a flashlight held up to one of my models and manually focused. I knew at f11 I would have a little room should they move slightly to keep the image in focus. With a one second exposure I would get shorter light trails so I took multiple frames of the set. I knew in post it would be easy to combine the frames to show extra light trails. Other options was to tighten down the f-stop and lower the ISO but that would mean the flash would have to be set to a higher power resulting in longer flash duration and leaving room for motion blur. Photography is always a game of give and take.

In post I just focused on contrast and some color adjustments. It was fairly straight forward and easy to do. Now I want to try some bigger and crazier fire effects. it’s a great start that is about to get better.