Photographing fire dancers in low light


This fire-eater was taken with my old 80-200 f2.8 zoom set at 145mm. Exposure was ISO 6400 f2.8 @1/1500sec to freeze the flames on the torch as well as on his tongue.

This fire-eater image was taken with my old 80-200 f2.8 zoom set at 145mm. Since it doesn’t have image stabilization, I had to make sure to hold the lens steady. Exposure was ISO 6400 f2.8 @1/1500sec to freeze the flames on the torch as well as on his tongue.

Also shot at ISO 6400, this very pretty Polynesian dancer was shot with 1/180 sec @f2.8 with my old style 80-200 zoom which has no image stabilization.

Also shot at ISO 6400, this very pretty Polynesian dancer was shot with 1/180 sec @f2.8 with my old style 80-200 zoom which has no image stabilization.

Advancements in digital photography used to be measured by the megapixels that its sensor can capture for each image.

Thank goodness that race has ended at least in the DSLR market.

Now, it’s about how good the image looks at high ISO.

It’s not that I have an aversion to digital noise in an image.

I lived with digital noise for years when I worked in news because there are lots of instances when flash photography is not allowed yet I had to had to produce an image to illustrate what took place.

Two such instances that come to mind is in the courtroom and some athletic events like badminton tournaments.

These days the ISO setting on my Canon 5DMarkII is never set higher than 400.

Even though I know the camera handles low light very well, I prefer to ‘light’ my subjects if it’s a portrait for better control.

I find if I’m doing a portrait, I want to be in control of the lighting anyway except in the case of this Saturday at the close of the 2013 Lunar Festival in Riverside..

In extreme low light like this when there is a lot of motion like in dancing, depth-of-field is a priority. Don't forget I was using a non-image stabilized lens, so I had to really concentrate and squeeze the shutter. ISO 6400 1/180 sec @ f2.8 Lens at 145mm focal length setting.

In extreme low light like this when there is a lot of motion like in dancing, depth-of-field is a priority. Don’t forget I was using a non-image stabilized lens, so I had to really concentrate and squeeze the shutter. ISO 6400 1/180 sec @ f2.8 Lens at 145mm focal length setting.

Considerations Besides Exposure

Anytime I find myself at an event that is packed, it means my coverage is severely limited.

People were crammed ten deep  behind me, since I was at the front where the barricade starts.

It also meant, I was stuck for the duration of the performance with no ability to move about.

I should have asked for such access, maybe next year…

The other issue is that I won’t be able to light or control the lighting unless I hired one or two assistants to be be my ‘voice-actuated  light stands.’

Setting up light stands and firing my lights with radio remotes still meant I need helpers to keep an eye on my gear so it doesn’t sprout legs and walk away in the crowd. :-)

White Balance

In Lightroom, I tweaked this image by adjusting the color temperature and tint to remove the magenta cast

In Lightroom, I tweaked this image by adjusting the color temperature and tint to remove the magenta cast

Out of the camera even with a custom white balance, you can see how mixed light sources causes strange color on the all important skin tones

Out of the camera even with a custom white balance, you can see how mixed light sources causes strange color on the all important skin tones

Shooting available light after the sun goes down is always a hit and miss.

Illumination and lighting after dark  is chosen based on utility and cost efficiency, and never for the sake of making photography easier.

If it were, our lives would be so much easier.

If you had total control over the entire event then you could set up strobes but you have to gel them to get the color temperature as close to the yellow flames as you can.

In my case, I decided to try 2 different approaches: perform a custom white balance and shoot JPEG  and raw.

Peter Phun Photography Promote Your Page Too


Blog Widget by LinkWithin

One thought on “Photographing fire dancers in low light”

  1. Hi Dominique,
    Thank you for voting and the feedback. I learn something every time I go out and shoot. I knew I would get something usable but this ‘act’ was very brief so I didn’t have much chance to ‘work’ the scene by moving around.

    As you know, a photographer has to work the angles to get good images. The large crowds and cordoned off area made this difficult. Perhaps I’ll ask for better access next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)