Photographing fire and flames can be inspiring. Fires are like living things. They grow, change and move, always presenting a new shape to the camera.
Before I properly get into this post I’ll just give you a quick health warning. Fire is hot (doh!), so if you take pictures of it be careful, both with yourself but also with your camera. Long exposures of large flames can let a lot of heat into your camera as well as light, and this has the potential to damage the sensor.
The first image is from a wonderful Fire Art evening held in Oxford. There were all manner of flaming devices but this one produced regular bursts of spectacular flames. I had to wait a while to get the pattern then shoot as quickly as I could when a burst came. The swirls and turbulence made for a great shot. It looks a bit like a weather system, or even an eye.
This is a bonfire at a public fireworks display in Faringdon, Oxfordshire. The heat was intense, and everyone kept stepping backwards as the fire got bigger and hotter. It was taken with a telephoto lens to isolate just part of the fire. The bonfire had lots of wooden pallets and it’s these that are burning, but it does look a bit like a burning building.
Here, instead of focusing on the fire, I’ve used it as a background for a candid portrait of a spectator. The long lens has given a nicely out of focus background and allowed me to crisply capture the bristles of his beard and his eyebrows.
In this image a fire dancer is whirling flaming torches around on the end of ropes. I used a 2 second exposure to ensure that I captured the full figure-of-eight cycle of the dancer’s movement. It was handheld, and the camera shake makes the background soft and non-distracting. It makes for a beautiful almost abstract image.
Finally, another shot from Oxford. This time I’ve copied and reversed it in Photoshop, to produce a symmetrical image. With these images it’s a little bit like a “Rorschach Inkblot Test”. You can see many things: a dancer, flowing fabric, an atom bomb explosion, a red jellyfish, etc. I see all of those and many others too.
So, photographing fire and flames is fun, and you get to keep warm too!