In November of last year on my last Europe tour, master pyrotechnician Andrey DAS and I got together in collaboration with award winning designer Virginie Marcerou to experiment and create some exciting and technically challenge images by combining a variety of pyrotechnics – from smoke, to sparklers, to firebreathing. Since I had just gotten back from speaking for Lovinpix at the Salon de la Photo and had met a bunch of people throughout the event, we decided to make it an open event and let people come watch us at work. The result was approximately 60 people showing up throughout the night, including a surprise visit from Udi from DIYPhotography!
Where it all began:
The concept began when DAS and I went out and about to look for the most epic and outrageous way to combine fashion and pyro. DAS came up with the idea of creating an angel in a ring of fire, and I connected him to Virginie. The result of a little brainstorming was this absolutely nutty concept.
As with most concepetual pyrotechnical ideas, the first step was to figure out what was realistically achievable and what was wishful thinking. We finally settled on seperating the image into a couple distinct parts. The bottom of the image would be created using the fire curtain, the ring would be created through a long exposure, and rather than build a seperate contraption to spread sparks around 8 feet in the air we settled for a column of flame from a fire breather. The entire scene would be lit from above using speedlights and an umbrella which I knew I would have with me. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the epic arch-angel wings we were hoping for so we had to settle for the baby angel wings. From there, the entire final image was going to be combined in camera using multiple exposures.
On shoot day, things turned out to be just as fun with a huge number of people that showed up to watch, help and contribute. Thanks to them, we were able to tie indivudal strands of the dress to pieces of string and have them wave it around as two people behind them spun fire, sparks and spat fire while in the foreground… assistants from DAS played with long ropes of flame.
The result? The beginning of an extremely exciting evening.
Since our first meeting in France, DAS and I have been trying to push the boundaries of what people had seen before. Mickael de Sinno, who was one of our models in a previous photoshoot 6 months back had decided to come back and play with us. He had been looking for imagery that would be capable of showing off his ridiculously cut body so we took him up on the offer and proceeded to stick him on a brick and spit fire on him…. and between his legs. DAS and his assistant Jerem Coté had a brilliant time spitting fire all over our brave model and the meticulously designed cape by Virginie Marcerou. Though it took a bunch of tries before we actually got things right… the final results were nothing short of amazing (IMHO!) Though the idea of simply having a fireball behind a subject is relatively simple, turns out that getting it perfect centered… x2 is actually quite hard!
Since we were messing around with consumable effects, each time we started a burn I had to be ready to constantly change up my camera settings to be able to compensate for the lighting conditions. Varying the shutter speed apeture and ISO combination would make the same effect look drastically different each time… add on the elements (wind) and the pyrotechnician himself (swinging faster, slower etc…) it was quite a feat to be able to find the perfect result and reproduceand retweak it. If you’ve never shot fire before… be sure to check out my 7 tips that will help you paint with fire before attempting anything on your own!
Checkout the outakes – longer/shorter shutter speeds and a variety of aperture values, as well as a combination of effect/lighting placement! Small changes making a huge difference!
Though it may look like nothing, getting that flash boomed from above and behind the model was an extremely challenging experience. It doesn’t show but directly behind the models was a pool of water. We had to sink a couple bricks behind the subjects and have one awesome assistant (Benjamin Lecomte FTW! precariously balanced behind two shivering models and two huge pools of water.) I took the shot from the complete opposite end of the pool with my Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm which happend to be just out of range of the Pixel Pawn triggers that I had causing massive misfires adding to our complications.
Despite the burning nature of the photoshoot, we were shooting continuously with models which meant that we had to be 100% certain that our models stayed as warm as they possibly could during the trial and error tweaking process of the photographs and this meant having blankets (or a cape) to keep our models warm. I think that this is something that many upcoming photographers forget when they work with models – they spend a lot of time tweaking settings while the models are stuck in an uncomfortable pose. (If you haven’t seen it, go check out some random tips and tricks that you should keep in mind as aphotographer… from a model’s perspective. Check out this article Dear Photographer. Kindest regards, Model).
What I recommend, especially when using such a variable element as fire is to get your effect right before even starting to ask your model to pose.
warmer models = more awesome poses in the long run.
And finally, the one thing to keep in mind and always remember is that fire is a dangerous element. It can have unpredictable effects so be sure to surround yourself with professionals that know how to deal with fire. Things can change in a heartbeat and can often become quite dangerous if you don’t control. As you can see in this effect, different tools can produce vastly different results so you need to be careful… literally… when playing with fire.
Hope you enjoyed this weeks video and blog post
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