A FIREWALL - KINGS PHOTOSHOOT
Find out more about KINGS here.
Brighton based Metalcore band KINGS contacted me with
a specific request for their band portrait... fire! As I'm sure you
can imagine it isn't the easiest of lighting sources to work with. Due
to it's dangerous nature there is obviously a need to keep the subject
(and any photography equipment such as reflectors, etc.) a certain distance
from the fire. When working outdoors in a wide space at night the light
intensity drops over distance at a great rate (see Inverse
Square Law). So although the fire itself is incredibly bright the
light from it that falls on the actual subject becomes very dim only
a short relative distance away. This creates difficulties achieving
a good balanced exposure as it is very easy to have an image with fire
that is overexposed and a subject underexposed.
With the camera on a tripod, the area viewable through the lens was
marked out on the ground so I knew the extremeties of the shot. My pre-shoot
tests told me I would need an exposure time of about 30 seconds to complete
the shot - approximately 15 seconds to get the background I wanted and
another 15 seconds more out of view adding extra light from the front.
Of course, fifteen seconds would normally be a huge amount of time to
photograph a fire that size, and it would likely be completely over
exposed BUT for safety reasons this fire was not quite what it seems...
it is in fact a firewall 'painted' into the scene much like the effect
of writing your name with a sparkler on Bonfire Night.
Some people automatically assume the fire was added using Photoshop.
Not so. This photo below is an unedited scan from one of the original
negatives, absolutely no Photoshop at all. The film used was Superia
200 in a Nikon F801. Incidentally, If you look at the darker areas of
this photograph you'll notice there's a slight double exposure showing
some of the background behind the firewall (bushes and fencing). It
was caused by me forgetting to close the shutter before turning on the
floodlights so we weren't in pitch black darkness. Consequently everything
of a lower exposure (like the dark clothing) now shows everything lit
up by the floodlighting.
So how do you create a firewall to make this effect? You will need a
long pole that will not catch fire itself. The one I used was 3 metres
long and made of metal. I then attached a metal chain a little shorter
(about 2.5 metres long). Attached from the pole and along the length
of the chain (although not quite all the way to the chain end) was some
ripped up cotton sheeting (£5 from a superstore). I then dipped
the sheeting into a bottle of white spirit and lit it. To create your
firewall you just carefully wave or walk with the sheeting on fire of
course holding it by the metal pole. The chain is vitally important
as it adds weight to the sheet to hold it down. Without the chain the
sheet is likely to flap around and burn everything within distance (I
know from experience!).
The shots below show the effect of slightly less intense flames which
help show more of the movement and how the pole was waved slightly to
make a 'trail' of fire rather than a 'wall' as such.
The exact sequence for this shoot was...
1: Shutter open. 2: Light sheeting (out of camera view). 3: 7 seconds
walk across the background, followed by 7 seconds right side in front
of the band (keeping fire out of shot). 4: 7 seconds walk back across
the background, followed by another 7 seconds to the left side front
(again out of shot). 5: Put the fire out in a firebucket. 6: Close shutter.
Due to the long exposure it was vital the band did not move at all.
Alternative shots were taken with the singer John Dudley holding a lit
fire-torch, and also empty handed. The band were awesome throughout.
The firewall shots include Sam Davies, who features doing the clean
vocals on their excellent first release "Thrones". The photo
below shows the band without him.
Go find out more about KINGS via their Facebook.
And once again, check the video for "Thrones" here.
It's a banger!
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© GREIG CLIFFORD. ALL IMAGES ARE SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT LAWS. ALL