Fire, Tesla coils and shooting in Paris by night!

By on June 13, 2013

Fire, has become somewhat of one of those trademark things that I’ve become quite well known for and every time I think I’ve got all the effects figured out, new challenges pop up.

On my latest tour through Europe, “L’ordre des pyromanciers excentriques” contacted me through Master Pyrotechnician Andrey DAS to help them take some new unique promo images featuring the new toys that they had prepared.

Since I was travelling light, all I had with me were some Nikon speedlights and some Elinchrom Ranger Quadras so the sets had to be kept to a bare minimum.

As with every pyro shoot, resources are in limited quantities so you’re always limited to a certain number of tries before materials run out… this meant that very quickly, I needed to be able to identify what settings to throw the camera on for each specific effect and how I was going to create a final image.

For the first shot with Laurie and the “sparkle stick” for lack of a better word, we had to take the shots in two separate exposures. The effect is dangerously hot so the user has to be covered head to toe like a ninja.

To ensure that colour temperatures remained the same, we slapped CTO gels onto the strobes so that things would make sense when the shot was recomposed together.

Vonwong sparkles

Laurie lit with an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra + Rotalux Deep Octa 100cm

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Long exposure of flaming embers. Camera settings: ISO 200/ f18 / 0.4 sec

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The next effect to capture was the flame trails coming out of Kevin’s magical wand. The effect was extremely organic but unpredictable as it was basically an ignition of a flammable powder. It also happened to be extremely bright which meant that I had to push my Quadra Rangers to max power in order to get exposures right for the flames.

Vonwong firestick

It took many tries to get things just right and with DAS playing voice activate light man + gobo, we managed to wing out just enough power to match the intensity of the flames. Camera settings: ISO 50 , f/22 , 1/5 sec

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Finally, we went onto the oldest bridge in Paris “Pont neuf” for our final dramatic shot to pose the entire team next to another for the final group shot.

Vonwong pyrocrew

By this time, I had already mastered how the burning embers were going to look so it was just a question of having Assistant Jerem Cote jump around and wave the flaming ball of embers in the right sequence while the wind was blowing in the right direction.

Lighting setup this time around was a simple single light with an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra + Rotalux Deep Octa 100cm boomed overhead with a Mogopod.

Here’s an unedited “before” picture for those of you that are curious: ISO 100, f9, 5 sec

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Finally, for the grand finale, we took a home made Tesla Coil into Waldo Lee‘s studio to create our token “poster shot”. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to play with a tesla coil, I highly urge you to go to a museum (no, don’t build one) and check one out. These things are SO ridiculously powerful that the effect on you is pretty indescribable.

Figuring out how to shoot electricity was quite a challenging process. For one, every take came with a sort of “BRACE YOURSELVES!” followed by a couple tens of seconds of intense crackling where I had to experiment with a whole variety of settings while coordinating one of they performers.

Here are a couple outtakes:

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The final magical numbers for me were ISO 320, f/22, 13.0 sec for the lightning. Combine that with some of the previous day’s magical flame powder and our eccentric pyromancers… we had our poster shot!

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All in all, a great day, amazing team and a crazy unique experience ^_^

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Announcements:

- 2 day workshop at Vistek in Toronto – June 18th, June 19th.

Learn more: http://www.vonwong.com/blog/workshops/profusion/

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- Win a free Think Tank Bag over on last week’s blog post on Travel Tips!

Special Gear used:

See what else is in my camera bag when I travel!

  • London_Roadhog

    I so would like to shoot with you, Benjamin, if you ever come to London, England

  • Patrick Kok

    Ben, awesome photograph! You really inspired everyone of how creative are you to create such a beautiful photos. Hopefully, you can come over Malaysia one day and open up a tutorial class.

    Patrick

    • http://www.vonwong.com/ Benjamin Von Wong

      Working on it!!! I’ll be in Malaysia end of January with family so… its not that far off :)

  • Khwaja Faraz

    So you don’t mind the diffraction much… but how can you shoot at iso 50? :(
    i foolishly tried it at a paying gig.

    • http://www.vonwong.com/ Benjamin Von Wong

      diffraction?
      whats that?

      I can shoot at ISO 50 cuz i have a d800E :)

    • Khwaja Faraz

      i shoot a d800 :)
      run a test if you feel like… look at the difference between iso 50 and 100
      better to use a cheap ND than ISO50

    • Cparker321

      Pretty sure Ben knows what he’s doing. :)

    • Khwaja Faraz

      lol… ok… i was surprised he answered me…

      BUT
      on the D800, iso 50 is derived by pushing down one stop from iso 100, digitally. this makes funny things happen to colors and highlights…

    • http://www.vonwong.com/ Benjamin Von Wong

      :P haha, @cparker321:disqus , I think @khwajafaraz:disqus is right, i’ve just never taken the time to pay attention to it.

    • Khwaja Faraz

      your work is so inspiring, it’s helping me get out of my box :)

  • Cparker321

    Absolutely love your work! You are an inspiration for me as an amateur. Thank you so much for giving us something to strive for.

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  • romanenko_org

    Yeaaaah, Tesla :)