So, if you’ve been reading some of my photography posts (see Making an Orb and Firestorm), you know I’m trying to get a picture of my wife surrounded by a tornado made of fire. No special effects, no computer editing. Just a single long-exposure photograph using the techniques of light painting. Keep reading to see how it went from start to (almost) finish. First, we got these pictures almost by accident…screwing around with some sparklers on a string.
This inspired me! How cool would it be if I could get my wife in the picture, surrounded by a tornado of flame?
Believe it or not, she was in each of the pictures above, but because it was dark out, she was wearing dark clothes, and the sparkler was so bright, she herself never got exposed on the (digital) film. So, in order to make this work, I had to add some off-camera flash work to the mix.
With only 5 confiscated sparklers left….make that 4…one of them turned out to be a dud…we took a few practice shots with just a flash (no sparklers) to see how it would work, then we burned our last sparklers on these 2 images:
In the first exposure, the sparkler didn’t burn well, and that’s why the ring of fire looked a little thin. With our very last sparkler, we took the last shot. I think it looks pretty good, even if it isn’t exactly what I was hoping for. The rings of fire look thicker because the sparkler burned properly. If we had another box or two of sparklers, I bet we could have gotten a really killer picture out of all this! That will have to wait until next July unless some generous person or angry parent wants to send some sparklers my way!
So here’s the rundown on how we did it:
Get your camera and gear ready. Use a tripod. Use an exposure of at least 30 seconds, although this will vary based on your ambient lighting. Before taking the shot, we double-checked focus and framing using the on-camera light and a couple of flashlights.
The choreography of the shot was: Spin the sparkler over her head while slowly crouching down and standing up again. Repeat until the sparkler burned out. Our sparklers averaged about 25 seconds before they died. As soon as they burned out, she dropped the sparkler and assumed the pose you see in the shot…as if she was trapped inside the firestorm. I quickly triggered my off-camera speed light 3 times in her direction. It was enough to light her up, as you can see. Then I closed the shutter. These last two shots we were doing 45 seconds per exposure, but if you have more effects to add, or just move slower than I do, a longer exposure should work just as well.
My wife and I enjoyed the heck out of this experiment! It was great fun, and really really simple to do. If you’ve got a camera and some sparklers, you should try it!
I’m building the same type of tool out of some multicolor LED’s I have laying around. We’re going to try that next. I think the flame would look great as a bright blue! I’ll post those tests in a couple of weeks if you’d like to see them.
Leave me a comment and let me know (good or bad) what you think!
Thanks. Be well.