Daily Photo – Fire on the Grass

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Here’s a rare photo of mine from Lighthouse Point that doesn’t have a surfer in it.  This guy is part of the performance group Kinetica, based out of Northern California.  All I can say is that fire must be pretty warm, because it was low forties when this shot was taken.


  • Shutter:  1/125
  • Aperture:  f/1.4
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM


Composition and Processing

  • The nice thing about shooting fire at night is that it brings its own illumination to the shot.  Unfortunately, the dynamic range often exceeds that of a modern digital camera:  the more you increase the exposure to lighten the subject, the more you lose detail in the fire itself (as is the case above, where both highlights and shadows were clipped).
  • Fire in motion is even more challenging, since varying parts of the subject are in and out of shadow quite rapidly.  Auto-focus sensors don’t like that.  This might be a case where manual focus would be the better choice, except most folks (myself included) can’t track a moving subject in the dark at f/1.4.
  • As for the shot itself, the low end of the bar has lit the ground just enough to create an isolated platform in the darkness on which the subject stands.  It’s a bit off to his left, but that matches the direction he’s looking and the angle of the bar (and is also why I cropped him to the left of the frame).

January 24 2009 09:44 pm | Photography

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