Scream火舞團 is an artist group that I never get tired of watching. They mix fire dancing with acrobatics, and they often change their routine over time. They’re also a fairly large group now and they’ve regularly been on TV and even performed abroad.
The only annoying thing for me is the difficulty of taking good pictures. They perform in a night market with very low lightning, and of course during their performance they move around a lot. Which means:
a) I need a fast shutter speed to “freeze the moment”
b) I need a fast lens with a wide aperture, but I can’t use a prime lens because it would make framing too hard
c) I need to use high ISO
Now all these things would be ok if it wasn’t for one huge issue:
d) Exposing a picture for the performer means completely blowing out the flames and removing any detail in them
Their own photographer has an amazing setup. He uses 3 flashes spread around their performing stage, layed on the floor and pointing upward. He knows when they’ll do something cool in the right position, and when the time comes he triggers all the flashes wirelessly while taking a picture.
This combination creates so much light around the performer that he can easily expose for the flames and then add the required amount of exposure to the subject thanks to the flashes, and the fact that he sets them up pointing upward means that the background won’t pick up too much light, creating a nice isolation between foreground and background. Brilliant!
I don’t have all that stuff, though. I never need so many flashes for my photography, so I only own a good flash, a wireless kit and a couple of continuos LED lamps for softbox shooting. Also, since they don’t know me I doubt they’d allow me to drop all that stuff on their stage.
The very first time I took pics of them I didn’t bring the flash with me. “Fire? Stage lights? There should be plenty of light, I’ll just carry a fast lens to be safe”. WRONG. OH SO WRONG. I ended up having to raise each picture’s shadows way too much and the results left me a bit disappointed.
This time I broght my 90-300mm lens (trash aperture, but good focal range) along with a flash. With everything set on manual mode I tried to find a balance between all the settings in order to have a powerful enough flash burst to lighten up the performer while not impacting too much the background. Since I don’t have an f2.8 zoom, I was forced to raise ISO quite a bit, with most images shot at ISO 3200. Luckily, the 6D is a camera that is well known to perform extremely well at high ISO.
Considering that the 6D is the cheapest full frame DSLR available on the market for the current generaton of cameras, and that the lens I was using is 20+years old and I paid around 35$ for it, I’m really happy about the result.
Of course, in a perfect world I’d have better gear but that would be overkill for real estate photography and studio portraits, the branches that constitute 90% of my photography.
White balance was a real struggle. Make the color look natural -> flames turn white and lose all their red/orange detailing. Eventually I decided to set white balance to keep images looking a bit red and orange-y, to enhance the feeling of the flames.
The rest of the images are in this Flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHskH3ETEe