[editor’s note: I was surprised at how casually the athletes treated the fire. I mean, it has to hot, and that size of a flame up close can be quite intimidating. I asked Brandon about it and he told DIYP that: “The safety and comfortability of the athletes was priority in this shoot, so making them aware of the process and how we would handle everything was taken care of prior to the shoot. Along the way we made sure they were okay with whatever we asked them to do, and once they saw what came from the photos, they were much more excited to keep going!”]
We’ve all seen photographs before of light trails through various forms of light painting; cars passing by, flashlights, pixelsticks, wool spinning, etc.
How often do we usually see fire as a tool to create light trails? Or how about using fire inside a gym to create light trails?
This is how this shoot happened
My gear used for this shoot:
- Nikon D810, Sigma 24mm 1.8
- (2) Interfit S1‘s with full stop CTO gel, along with Interfit’s remote trigger
- 26″ white diffused beauty dish as backlight modifier, 39″ Selens para as main light modifier
- Shooting tethered via Macbook Pro into Capture One pro 9
For the BTS footage, we used:
- Go Pro Hero 3+, 4, 4+
- Sony RX100M3
With this setup, I knew I wanted to capture the direction that the flame would travel, while still showcasing the athlete in a flattering & dynamic way.
To light the kettle bell, we simply stuck some tape to the bottom and applied a little lighter fluid to catch the flame. Prior to each take, we made sure to have the athlete dip the outside of his hands in some water to protect the skin from any flame that may come close.
[I’d like to give a shoutout to Interfit for their newest strobe, the S1. They were the only two lights I used for this shoot, and were more than enough power to compensate for the needs of this shoot. With the units, I could use the S1 Remote to wirelessly control the power of each individual unit from my camera. This is a huge help for when my lights were already raised 9 feet high, and reaching the power control on the unit is pain in the butt. Check out the unit here, and my full review here.]
I knew I wanted to showcase more of the action of this shot, since the fire trail is a little less interesting. We had to start the beginning of the shutter with a bigger flame, just so that you could see his body move from the left side of the frame to the right.
Since this photo was a much longer shutter speed, I had remotely triggered the flashes when I knew he would cross the correct position of the photo. This was a much easier method to execute, compared to just using rear-curtain sync and attempting to time the tail end of the shutter.
To be prepared for safety, we made sure to have a few available items:
- a fire extinguisher
- 3 wet towels
- a giant bucket of water
For most cases, putting the fire out with a wet towel would have been a better extinguisher, so that we could preserve a piece of equipment to remain flammable until the shot is accomplished. A bucket of water was close by to keep our towels wet. If somehow things were to get completely out of hand, a fire extinguisher was also nearby and ready for use
This shot was one of my first ideas I had come up with. I knew the bar path throughout the snatch would create a really interesting fire trail.
This is a very similar setup to the kettle bell swing above, but a different background and a different movement create something very different in the end.
To ignite the flame, we simply sprayed lighter fluid on the side of the plate facing the camera. By the end of the movement, most of the flame had died out, and was easier to extinguish with a wet towel.
About the Author
Brandon Wells is a fitness photographer based in Austin, Texas. You can see more of his work on his website, blog, and Instagram. This post was also published here and shared with permission.
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