Aloha from Kauai

Hawaiian Fire Knife Dancer

Just came back from my DLWS Kauai workshop.   I was getting tired of shooting palm trees when this happened.  Totally awesome!

The fire knife dancer in the picture is Paul;  he was our special guest for the last evening shoot.  Paul has been performing fire knife dances since he was about 14; he’s got scars on both of his arms to support his credentials.

Setting up for this shot was not technically tricky, except:

  • There were about 20 shooters, so taking turns was a little complicated.  We decided to split into two sets of lights.  One group was going to shoot Nikon CLS; while the other was going with pocket wizards.   That was we won’t have 20 sets of lights firing at the same time.
  • Ambient light was fading away really quick.
  • Paul could only twirl the torches for a short period of time before either the torch runs out of kerosene or Paul runs out of juice.

Timing was everything.  Before my turn, I put the camera in manual mode.  I metered the ambient to my liking, then checked the flash’s exposure really quick before Paul gets on the set.  As the ambient fades, all I need to do is decrease the shutter  speed (aperture controls the exposure of the flash while shutter speed controls the exposure of the ambient).  We decided to add a 1/4 CTO gel to the flash so it matches the color of the fire.  And yes, there is a ring of  fire on the water; some kerosene dropped from the torch and somehow it got lit.  Really spectacular!

The result turns out really great despite the fact that I only get to shoot about 3 frames before having to hand off the packet wizard to the next shooter.  Not bad at all…


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