First off: I would like to apologize to the readers I still have that I
never get around to updating here. I am aware that I'm writing less than
once I was planning to.
I have grown very interested in photography, as those of you who have
seen my photo-a-day blog will have
noticed. With the growing interest, I also notice a growing awareness of
photography and of pictures, and I start thinking about how I would do
Such as this last weekend. There was a wedding. There was a wedding
celebration. At one point we ended up down at a beach, watching a fire
show. A friend of mine was running out of space on his memory card, so
left his camera with me and ran to get the next card.
So I took some photos of the fire dancing (I haven't gotten access to
them myself just yet, they'll be posted on my photo blog when I get hold
of them). And I realized some things about how to photograph fire
dancers. I'll enumerate a few of me recent (though I am convinced, not
original) insights here. Worth noticing is that they are pretty much all
inherently contradictory, emphasizing the *craft* aspect of
1. Darkness matters. Large parts of the beauty of fire photography
comes from actually seeing the fire, even from the fire being the main
actor in the image. Hence, it helps if the fire light doesn't have to
compete with ambient light. Pick a nice location, wait until late enough
in the evening that ambient light is dim if not dark.
2. Long exposures. Conveying the motion of the flames in a fire
dance gets easier and all the more impressive if each individual flame
becomes a bright, vivid streak of light, tracing out the curve of the
dance. You get this with long exposures. The longer the better: time
really does translate pretty much directly to vivid visuals here.
3. Sharp facial features. A dancer dancing blurs. This is kinda the
point of the item #2 above. Blurring the fire, and limbs, imbues a sense
of motion, a sense of action to the picture. However, blurring the face
removes the feeling of humanity more than anything else. Keeping the
dancer immobile giving them sharp, recognizable features while still
moving their extremities and the fire will make for a truly iconic fire
4. Slow dances. Related to all of the above, a slow fire dance
will accomplish several things for us as photographers:
a. Dancing slowly means the fire moves slowly. If you've ever watched
a fire dancer, you'll notice that when the fire moves slowly, it burns
with a large, bright yellow flame, illuminating the area around it.
Instead, when moving fast, the fire flickers, burns in a dim hot blue,
and illuminates much less.
b. Dancing slowly means the dancer moves less, helping to keep the
dancer sharp at the core.
After the performance this weekend, I talked to the performers, and I
might be given the chance of making a dedicated photo shoot with them
juggling fire. I am already making plans for the photo shoot: how to
stage it, what to do and how. Expose for about -1, maybe -2ev, against
the background, illuminating the juggler with their fire, but keeping
the background visible and interesting. Posing them — with the fire — on
a jetty, so that the fire dance is reflected in the water. And asking
them to try and keep their face stationary, while twirling fire, and
exposing at somewhere in the range of 1/2-3".
At least that's my current plan.