Week #35: Fire

To be shot and submitted between Sunday, Aug 23 and Sunday, Aug 30 (noon, Eastern)

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
~ Ferdinand Foch

Fire has been a driving force of every civilization in history. There is a reason we humans are so mesmerized by its flickering flame: it can destroy, and it can forge; it can ravage and it can heal; it can be our downfall, or our salvation.

What other power holds us so tight in its grip, and also threatens us so readily? What other force can split itself in two – and grow ever larger! – rather than diminish?

Fire, with its contradictions and hypnotic influence, is impossible to grasp. In fact, it is literally impossible to grasp as well – for it is itself a chemical process and not a substance to behold.

This will not dissuade us. Our challenge this week is to grapple with the intangible, capturing fire on film, and telling its story.

What does fire mean to you? Is it a comforting source of warmth, or a slithering menace? Is it a source of hope and light and inspiration? Or does it singe your dreams?

Does it represent Food? Danger? Warmth? Excitement? A mere chemical process, or roasted marshmallows? Think about how your background or surroundings will complement what you want to convey about fire. What story can you tell, rather than just documenting the sparks?

It’s going to get hot in here.

Tips and Tuts for this week:

  • SAFETY FIRST! Plan your shoot VERY carefully and make sure that you work in an open, well-ventilated area and that everything is moved far away from the flames. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. We do NOT want to hear horror stories of melted lens caps or that you have burned down your house! [If you are under 18, ask a parent for help!]
  • Decide how you are going to portray your fire. Fire photos are often shot in one of the following three ways:
  • Consider adding smoke to your fire. If you want to accentuate your photo with smoke:
    • Make sure that your fire is making smoke
    • Make sure to light the smoke (try a flashlight)
    • Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the smoke trails.
  • It is all about the light. (isn’t it always…?)
    Whatever type of fire you want to photograph, it is reasonable to assume that you are going to have a low-light problem. Either the flames will be too bright and everything else will be dark or your camera’s flash will want to go off, making you lose the golden light of the flames. To make the flames visible AND capture a “warm” atmosphere, you are going to have to use a slow shutter speed (which may sacrifice the sharpness of a flickering fire). Dim light needs a slower shutter speed to let in more light.
    The aperture is important too: small holes (f/16, f/22,) let in little light; big holes (f/2, f/2.8,) let in a lot. So experiment with the right shutter speed/f-stop combination because there will be differences in the brightness of the flames and the distance of the light-source from your subject.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the links in the tips and tuts section, or visit our 2012 Fire Album. Here’s a video on shooting fire, for those of you who like videos, and a tutorial on “flame manipulation” who want to try some experimental Photoshop work.

Extra Credit: Fire Performers

Yosef and Shai have a bet to see whether more than just a few Framers can find some Fire Performers to photograph (fire breathers, fire dancers, etc). Go ahead and see who’s right! Use your social networks, Google, and ingenuity to find some subjects. DO NOT TRY IT YOURSELF (there is no Extra Credit for people who risk their safety!!). Think you can find a fire dancer? Here’s a neat tutorial to get you going!

Remember, it is not necessary to work in this Extra Credit piece. It’s extra credit!

Have a challenge idea for 2016?