Fun With Fire!

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Disclaimer***Ok, so this post is not strictly sports-related, but it definitely falls into the “action” category, and offers some tips that can be used to capture cool nightime sport photos.***

How do you take a photo of people and fire together, and make it work?

There are several things at play in making these photos work. And the most important consideration of all is the light. There are two existing sources of light, and they each serve a purpose. However, neither of them alone are going to make our subject (the dancers) look good.

1) The fire

The fire is one light source. It is very red/orange in color, and is bright enough to light up Noli’s face. However, since it required a long exposure (1-3 seconds), her face would most likely be blurred as she moved around, dacing with the fire. Having the flames move around is good, but a blurry face is not.

And of course, for such a long exposure, I used a tripod to keep the camera steady.
Here you can see what the picture looks like when Noli’s face is lit only by the light coming from the fire.
Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

2) The background light:

LePage park has nearby street lighting which lit up the trees and buildings in the background. By using a long exposure to capture the fire, I was also capturing a fairly well-exposed background. Again, using the tripod was essential to making sure the background came out sharp, not blurry.

3) Camera Flashes:

To make the dancers come out sharp, I used a flash to light them. This ensures that they come out sharp.
I used two flashes for some of these photos – one pointed at each fire dancer. And I used some very high-tech construction paper rolled up into a cyclinder and taped to the flashes to create a snoot (basically a cone that focuses your flash into a mini-spotlight).
For duo shots I used wireless radio triggers and placed the flashes on light stands off to the side of the camera.
Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

However, for the individual shots, I found it easier to trigger the flashes manually. I hit the shutter button on the camera (which was on a tripod), and since the shutter was open for a few seconds, I had time to run off to the side with the flash in my hand, point it at the dancers face (much easier to aim at a moving target this way, rather than hoping your light stand has the flash pointing at your subject), and the hit the button to pop the flash.
Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Why Have The Flash Off To The Side?

Just a quick note to those who are wondering – I try to have the flash off to the side because getting your flash off the camera almost always looks better than having it mounted on top of your camera. It creates more shadows, looks more natural, and gives more depth to your photos.
Thanks to What’s Up Yukon for keeping me busy with many challenging and interesting assignments, and thanks to Kate and Noli for being such awesome performers and braving the ridiculous cold!
Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

Winterval Fire Twirlers At LePage Park in Whitehorse, Yukon. Photos by Rick Massie / Yukon Sports Photographer

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