Photographers are always coming up with new ways to make their photographs stand out from others. Some are silly techniques, some are artsy, and some are downright badass. The photographer that has one of the most badass and exciting techniques that I have ever seen has to be Barry Elder of Van Elder Photography. By using various items and putting in place many safety precautions, Elder has found a way to surround his subjects in a wall of fire.
Here is how he does it:
- Camera with 30″ (or bulb) Exposure.
- Colemans Fuel or other flammable fluid, this must however be contained within an approved container.
- Old Jug (or something similar).
- Pole to hang strap/rope from.
- CO2 extinguisher.
- Damp/wet Towel.
- Appropriate Clothing, don’t wear something than can catch fire easy!
Before I continue, please let me remind you that playing with fire and flammable fluid isvery dangerous, add to that an open container of flammable fluid and things could get very nasty, very quickly! – Please make sure you follow some basic safety advise before you continue.
- Never light the strap close to the open container of flammable fluid – flammable fluid will be dripping off the strap when you remove it from the jug which will leave a trail of flammable fluid on the ground – this WILL catch fire!
- Always ALWAYS close your flammable fluid bottle and move it far away from where your jug/starting point will be.
- Stay clear of ANYTHING that can catch fire, bushes, trees, grass and cars!
- Keep a wet towel close by, wrap this around the strap to kill the flames
- Keep a CO2 extinguisher close by, just incase!
- Once you have completed the pass you will extinguish the flame by wrapping the strap/rope in a wet towel, ensure this is prepared and ready! – Please see the video for an example of how to do this.
- Use your common sense, I have warned you! You do this at your own risk and that of others around you.
Now that we are safety first minded, let’s continue!
- Set up your camera, pointing to whatever your subject is.
- For the composition determine where the start and end points should be for your firewall, then mark them on the road with stones so you can remember where you have to walk between.
- Camera settings vary really, but a good starting point is 100ISO, F14, Shutter as long as you need.
- Place your strap into the jug, bearing in mind that it needs to come out untangled.
- Pour the flammable fluid into the jug, ensuring all of the strap has been doused in the flammable fluid – Try not to spill any, If you do move from that area.
- Close your flammable fluid bottle and move it far away from where your jug/starting point will be.
- Leave the strap to soak for about 2-3 minutes.
- Attach it to the pole and prepare everyone and do some final safety checks before you continue.
- Remove the strap from the Jug and walk at least 3 meters away from the jug, fire will drip off the strap and may cause the jug to catch fire if you are too close!
- Ask your Assistant to light the strap, it is important to light it from the middle to ensure even burn.
- Open your shutter using a remote release or ask your assistance to open shutter once the strap has been lit – If you don’t have a remote trigger you may require a 3rd Assistant – One to light and one to manage shutter – I use a wireless remote and control the open and closing whilst walking.
- Now walk quickly from the starting point to your end point.
- Close your shutter.
- IMPORTANT: Your strap may still be alight at this point, ensure you extinguish it correctly, place the strap on one half of the damp towel and cover up with the other side, removing all oxygen and killing the flame – failing that stamping on the flames should kill them – now leave it to cool, it will be very hot.
Review your image, re-adjust settings if required – You may have to close the aperture a bit more if parts are over exposed.
Now rinse and repeat until you have achieved your desired image.
As a little extra I’ve put together a video to show you the tools required, how to extinguish the rope and some BTS Footage from the Ultima GTR shoot, I hope this helps!