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How To Guides

How to: Photograph the Art of Spinning Fire.

So you want to photograph fire spinning (Fire Poi) huh?  The first thing you must understand is that playing with fire is dangerous. You can get seriously burned if the hot molten steel hits your face, hair or body. You must exercise extreme caution and stay safe. You should have a friend who is willing to tag along to help or do the fire spinning.  Of course, you can do this with a remote release but I wouldn’t recommend it. Someone needs to be there to remind you to stop, drop, and roll if you set yourself a blaze!

I set up the camera, dial in my settings, set focus, and then let my husband take over and click the shutter when I’m ready to go. There are certain poi tricks you can learn with good practice. You should be aware of the laws in your area to make sure you aren’t doing anything illegal or be prepared to deal with the consequences.

I prefer to shoot on the beach right near the water as It’s a big open space and usually deserted at night. If there are people around, I make sure to walk far from them. I always get approached by those interested once they see fire shooting off in all directions. Always be aware of where the people are and make sure they aren’t close enough to you because the flaming metal goes all over and the last thing you want to do is melt a strangers face off, right?

You will need:

  • tripod
  • steel wool pads
  • lighter
  • a fire spinner
  • a friend
  • a hoodie

Building a spinner.

If we were deep sea fishing, this would be our anchor. It’s a simple tool built with minimal materials and easy construction. This is my main spinner. I used about 3 feet of light chain, 2 spring-loaded keychain clips, some medium weight pliable wire, and an metal screw-lock C ring. All of the materials are available at the hardware store. It’s pretty basic stuff. I used one clip to loop the chain onto itself to make a handle and the other to secure the wire cage that holds the steel wool to the C ring. I’m sure you’ll figure it out when you’re at the table looking at the pile of silvery bits.

I have secondary spinner too. It’s made of medium weight coated metal wire that’s pretty thick. It’s not flimsy like my chain version (& not nearly as ugly!!!). I used different types of hardware too. No key chain clips and no “wire cage.” Simple. I don’t have a preference over one or the other, they both work well.  I’ve seen people engineer all sorts of steel wool spinners, some as basic as attaching a kitchen whisk to a bungie cord– BUT I suggest you stay away from plastics, nylon, and twine-type of material, you know anything flammable. Use your head. PS. You can click this picture to enlarge it and see the hardware I used to make the stable spinner. It’s great to use when you really want to have the rope do most of the controlling which gives you near perfect lines.

Camera Settings.

For the shot at the beginning of the post, and the one below I used the same settings: f/6 @ 15 sec. I was about 25-30 feet away from the camera. The only light source around was the full moon and the ball of fire in my hand. Your settings will vary based on the distance you are from the subject and of course, the light. Once you take your first picture you should be able to judge any adjustments you may need to make. If your fire looks blown out and over exposed try shooting for less time, like 10 seconds. If it’s too dim, try opening your aperture up a bit.  LIGHT. SHUTTER. SPIN.

Here’s a video of what it looks to the human eye.  I made this from a few clips last year when I first started spinning fire! This art was definitely made for photography.

Final Thoughts.

As always don’t forget to be creative! I have converted many of my shots into black and white, tinted them different colors, and added filters ( to my lens, not in photoshop) all for the sake of enhancement and uniqueness. You can bring flash lights to light up objects near you, or add gels to make colored lights for  illumination. You can try spinning anything that lights up, like christmas lights, LED keychains, and glowsticks! Leave no light-source un-played with, but don’t be stupid and start slinging things that are unpredictable or blow up.. like  fireworks.

 Finding a location can be tricky (and risky) but the more visual impact, the better. I wouldn’t start worrying about these things until you get the spinning down first. It’s easy, but dangerous.. and oh, so much fun. I forgot to mention this earlier. Don’t forget to put a hoodie on to cover your hair, face, and arms. I don’t think I need to explain why.

So hey! If you liked my post, tell me! If you tried it out, grrrrrrrreat – Post a link to your results when you make some.
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About PixelGrin

Photography. Punk Rock. Art. Travel.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “How to: Photograph the Art of Spinning Fire.

  1. thank you! ive been wanting to try it out, this is perfect!

    Posted by rob | 9 December, 2014, 5:39 am

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Hi Hello I'm Jennifer Jackson. ...and the world is my oyster...

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