Setting Plants on Fire

August 02, 2012  •  1 Comment

I've been wanted to set something on fire for a while now - without actually winding up with a visit from the friendly fire department down the street. I decided to start small, and found the perfect opportunity when I noticed the dead and dried out herbs growing on the side patio of a local restaurant.

Art photo of dill and clouds

Yes, that's an iPhone snap put through Instagram's app after tinkering with my Photoshop app - guilty! I was struck by the delicate shape of the dried up dill (and basil) languishing in the hot sun. So I uprooted the dead stuff and took it home with me.

You can see that I'm a fan of fire already from images like this:

Abstract art image of fire with deliberate camera movement during long exposureMaschera But I wanted to try something different and not strictly abstract. Part of that involved planning to exercise more control over not just the fire, but also the overall image. I decided to use my Canon 580EX flash triggered by my Alien Bee remote system to fill in some shadows and highlight the form of the plants. I'm not used to posting my process yet, so I neglected BTS shots (sorry!).

The flash was on a boom and flagged to prevent too much spill, placed camera left and behind the subject. I also used a warm gel to match the light of the flame while a sunlight reflector bounced some light into the shadows - the flash power I used ranged from 1/4 to 1/64 on manual.

Once I had my settings, I was ready to burn! I created a mound of dirt to support the plants, and a barbecue lighter to fire it up. With my Canon EF-S 17-55mm lens pre-focused and a cable release plugged in, I went for it.

To be honest, the first one flamed out much faster than I anticipated, nor did the plants burn in their entirety. Overall, I feel pretty pleased with my results despite it not going quite as expected. The final images were tweaked with some burn/dodge work, levels/curves and color adjustment.

I do plan on coming back to this type of work, which should be easy as the Atlanta summer heat scorches everything in my yard.

To Be Consumed in Flame

55mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/4 sec

Burning dill and basil with off-camera flashBurning Pair This one is actually a composite of two sequential images - the top right portion worked so well with the other image I had to. I don't often (almost never, really) do composite work, so I was really happy this worked out.

49mm, ISO 200, f11, 1/6 sec.


Smoke and flame from hot ashes of dead herbs.Burning Up

55mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/4 sec.


Comments

1.Angela Salidis(non-registered)
These are lovely Ella!
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