Fire Dancing - Lots of fun...

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by robbie36, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Real Name:
    rob collins
    I was walking back along the beach and I saw some guys fire dancing in front of a hotel. Thinking that this was a great chance of a shot I took out my camera and took a few. I couldnt get too close as I wasnt a guest at the hotel.

    I decided to use the tried and tested photographic technique known as 'random settings'. I knew I wanted a reasonably long shutter speed to catch the trails of flames. Any automatic settings would result in overexposed white flames with no detail and the remains of the shot underexposed. I added a flash to freeze the guy while he was spinning.

    I took a dozen shots and got one good one.


    What is interesting is the settings on this shot.

    shutter 0.4 secs
    F stop F20.0 (that is twenty)
    iso 400
    Flash EV +2.0

    I was shooting manual so the effective EV I would guess at -4.0 to avoid overexposing the flames.

    The flash was in TTL which wasnt much good but even at +EV 2.0 it wasnt bright enough to expose the guy properly at F 20.0.

    Yes very whacky settings I will admit (some working against the others). Anyway I looked at my photos, looked up fire dancing on the internet (a pretty hopeless exersize) and decided to go back and eat at the hotel to catch the fire dancers again.

    Actually my settings werent out as much as you might think. You basically need a decent length shot....

    0.4 to 0.8 seconds....

    You need to massively underexpose the ambient light so as not to overexpose the flames - at least - 3.0EV.

    So .....

    ISO 200

    And you need to push your flash EV right up as the TTL will be fooled by the flames into thinking the photo is brighter if you want the flash to properly expose the dancer.


    FEV +3.0

    So good theory. Unfortunately I went to have dinner at the hotel and they didnt turn up. Luckily walking back I bumped into a kid practicing on the beach (dont try this at home folks). And fired off about 25 shots of which half a dozen turned out pretty well.

    I used the settings as above....

    Incidentally the one thing you absolutely dont need is a tripod even though you are shooting at 0.6 of a second. You are essentially dealing with two light sources. The fire that is moving and makes it own print on the photo that will not really be effected by your movement and what is lit by the flash that freezes the motion of the dancer.








    Is it worth its own thread? Probably not. But shooting fire dancers is a lot of fun and maybe people could add their shots and improve on the settings.
  2. Timos L

    Timos L Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 26, 2011
    Athens, Greece
    Real Name:
    Timos :)
    Nice shots.

    One from me, in Monastiraki square, Athens.

  3. rozza

    rozza Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 2, 2013
    New Zealand
    These are awesome. And thanks for sharing the crazy settings you used to achieve such a great effect :)
  4. Y2K

    Y2K Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 19, 2012
    Real Name:
    If you don't mind me asking, what flash did you use? The OM-D "kit" flash or something more powerful?
  5. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Real Name:
    rob collins
    I used the FL600 r as you need a lot of flash power at iso 200 and F8.0. I think the Fl 600's GN is 50 at iso 100 or maybe its GN is 50 at iso 200 (in which case its actual GN is 36). Either which way you need virtually all its flash power.

    So I think the FL600 would only give me a range of 6-9 feet at maximum power. The OMD's accessory flash has a GN of 7 so would only give me about a foot or so.

    In the first shot the flash had a diffuser on so that didnt help.
  6. twokatmew

    twokatmew Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 1, 2012
    Lansing, MI, US
    Real Name:
    Robbie, thanks for sharing your settings ... and some great photos. I think they're definitely worth their own thread. :smile:

    Sent from my phone. Please pardon my brevity!
  7. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    Although they're all really good, the 1st one is my favorite.
  8. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Real Name:
    Thanks for sharing the photos and especially your thought process to get the captures.
  9. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Real Name:
    A really cool set - well done! :thumbup:
  10. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Another TOTALLY AWESOME series! :2thumbs::thumbup:
  11. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Real Name:
    rob collins
    What''s interesting is that if you look up settings for fire dancers on the internet you will get 10 totally different answers from 10 different posts which is obviously just a way of saying there are 10 different ways to take the same shot.

    use tripod/dont use
    use flash/dont use
    high/low isos
    fast/slow shutter speeds
    fast/slow apertures.

    Niel Van Nierkirk who is usually my guru when it comes to flash recommends...

    No flash
    1/60 shutter speed
    iso 3200

    The result is obviously very different.