Play­ing with fire Burn­ing rub­ber

Stu­dio photographer Dan McClana­han re­veals how he adds a cre­ative spark to por­traits

Digital Camera World - - PHOTO PROJECTS -

FIre paint­ing had al­ways in­trigued me, so one night I tried it for my­self in the al­ley­way be­hind my stu­dio. This photo came about as a cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tion with a friend who man­ages a hair sa­lon – we wanted to am­plify the model’s hair colour us­ing a pho­tog­ra­phy style that’s un­like typ­i­cal stu­dio work. I in­cor­po­rated a mo­tor­cy­cle and leather jacket be­cause I thought the tex­tures and re­flec­tions would look awe­some with the fire, and would cre­ate max­i­mum con­trast be­tween the dark sub­ject and the bright fire in the fi­nal im­age.

First, I took a shot to nail down the com­po­si­tion, pose, and flash power. I chose a low an­gle to make the model look em­pow­ered, and used flash light­ing from four Pro­foto strobes. The main light was a grid­ded beauty dish that cre­ated a splash of dra­matic light­ing on the model’s face with­out spilling too much onto the rest of the scene. I added two rim lights and a light un­der the mo­tor­bike, with orange gels to help my ar­ti­fi­cial light blend in with the am­bi­ent light from the fire.

Once these de­tails were de­ter­mined, I cap­tured a per­fect posed shot be­fore adding any fire, to use as a base im­age when blend­ing mul­ti­ple ex­po­sures later. For this I used a pop of flash to freeze the model and make her ap­pear sharp.

For the fire in this shot I used a 20cm piece of Kevlar rope (which with­stands mul­ti­ple burn­ings bet­ter than reg­u­lar rope) tied to the end of a metal pole, and dipped it in tiki torch fluid. The fluid burned for ap­prox­i­mately 30 sec­onds, giv­ing a hand­ful of ex­po­sures per burn.

I had my model hold as still as pos­si­ble while my friend ran back and forth through the frame sev­eral times to cre­ate fire streaks with in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tion. At this point I ex­per­i­mented with shut­ter speed to dial in the amount of fire I wanted to cap­ture. I landed on a four-sec­ond ex­po­sure, at f/14 and ISO 100.

To fin­ish the im­age, I blended my favourite ex­po­sures to­gether by lay­er­ing them in Pho­to­shop and us­ing the Lighten Blend­ing mode, so that only the lighter ar­eas would show up from an ex­po­sure placed on top of my base im­age.

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