Fire and Flash | Elinchrom Quadra on Location

A dramatic way to start a show
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX from back left & fire
1/100th second, f6.3, 250 ISO, Daylight white balance
Canon 5D Mk II, 24 - 105 mm L IS

We recently ran an open Shutter evening for the Brighton & Sussex Photography User Group at the Wool Pack pub in Burgess Hill. Once again a very good turnout, especially as it was a cold winter evening - for those that didn't come along, they missed a stunning show by fire performer Richie Wright.

After Richie's 30 minute show Ben & I did a demo to show how to mix flash with fire and create some images for Richie's portfolio at the same time.

The basic set up
1/15th second, f7.1, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

As you can see from this wide shot, safety is an important consideration when working with fire, not only for the performer and audience, but also the photographer and Voice Activated Light stand (Ben). We not only had to work at longer distances, we needed clear communication with Richie a) about his action and b) our intentions for the images. The shots that follow did not happen by accident, but by observation, communication and most important collaborative team work.

1/5th second, f6.3, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

The light source of choice for these shots was an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head with Portalite 56 cm Octa soft box. We made this choice as Richie would be moving about so we needed to cover a large area with the one light - the wide shot above gives an idea of the coverage of this light modifier.

The front diffusion panel was omitted and replaced by a translucent deflector giving us a wide angle beauty dish with some transmission through the deflector. Because we needed to work at fairly high power with a fast recycling time, and coupled with the fact we'd chosen to use the 56 cm Octa, a Speedlite or Speedlites would have proven impractical on the grounds of low power output and sluggish recycling times. I could have used multiple speedlites but 4 Speedlites to gain the 400J required is a bit cumbersome/heavy, slow to rig and pricey at £400 a each. A single Quadra only costs a shade over £1k in UK money! See my recent comparison.

1/5th second, f6.3, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

Part of the challenge of working with multiple light sources, (yes fire emits light and is therefore a light be factored in) is balancing them to get the effect you pre-visualise. For the wide shot I started with my shutter at 1/15th second, aperture f7.1 (both metered with my Sekonic Multimaster L 408 in spot mode. I've owned mine since release 1995, it has now been since superceded*). I decided that the aperture needed tweaking to f6.3 and these shutter dragged to 1/5th second to get the blur without over-exposing Richie with the light from the flames. Why ISO 250? No idea, just felt good at the time!

Not too sure I'd like to follow Richie's choice of diet - I like it hot, but not flaming!

As I was shooting at such slow shutter speeds a tripod was essential. In this case a Giottos MTL 8350B carbon fibre tripod and MH 1301-652 ball head. You can read more about this combination elsewhere in my blog. I used a Canon 5D Mk II with 24 - 105 IS L Series glass - I would have a preferred to use my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM, but this was not the time to experiment so I stuck with the known safe option.

In conclusion
I currently working with a limited kit carried in a LowePro Pro Roller X200 wheeled case and using public transport where possible, especially travellin to London. I've had to think through carefully what I carry to cover the majority of assignments. In the one case have a 3 light rig, camera and lenses which I'll cover sometime soon in this blog. Working with minimum or limited kit enables faster working without getting too hung up on which gear to use for which shot. If you are a wedding photographer I would very seriously look at the Portalite 56 cm Octa soft box for your off-camera lighting. It's very versatile and can be configured to give varying effects. Again this is something I intend covering sometime soon.

Elinchrom & Rosco products are available from The Flash Centre in London, Birmingham or Leeds in UK. Contact Simon Burfoot at the The Flash Centre and mention this blog if you're interested in any of the products mentioned above.

* If I were to replace this meter, the chances are I'd now opt for the Gossen DIGISKY, the only hand-held off-camera meter with built in Elinchrom Skyport. The only thing that would prevent this is the lack of spot metering which I still find useful (see above), so the Sekonic L758DR could be an option with a steep learning curve.


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