by Geoff Decker
I have been shooting flow artists, fire performers and breathers for almost as long as I’ve held a camera. The flow community was actually my first dive into shooting people.
I remember my first time being exposed to the flow community. I was living in Orlando, FL at the time and was probably my second year into learning photography. I became fascinated with my two long-term photographic loves – fire and near infrared photography. I came across some fantastic photos of fire dancers and breathers taken on the beaches of Hawaii and immediately wanted to learn how to capture this art form.
After doing some digging, I quickly learned that there was a weekly meetup at a local bar, Lions Lair. When I got there, the scenery was less than appealing, truth be told. Instead of the spectacular landscapes found in Hawaii, the meetup was held in the parking lot of a strip mall bar, complete with bright, heavily tungsten lighting. Everyone was welcoming and I quickly learned that lighting fire photography was no easy feat.
Unlike studio lighting, fire is constantly changing. Depending on the props being used and the fuel left on the Kevlar, the circumstances change constantly throughout the shoot and you have to get quick with adjusting your settings. Additionally, you have to figure out how to adjust your settings for both the artist and the fire (hint, rear syncing your flash is the key).
I went back almost weekly to the meetups. This is how I taught myself/learned lighting and exposure. There is often a dance you have to do with your camera settings to balance out ambient lighting, the artist, and the fire. You have limited control over the available light, and more often than not its better to give up control and rather shoot with the flow.
I still love shooting this style. My first few years in Colorado I was a photographer for the parade of lights and loved capturing their performances. I had access to a studio where I was able to use strobes for a sincerely fun (and long) shoot.
Its been a bit since I have been able to shoot this style, but greatly look forward to when I am able to pick this up once again.
You can find more of Geoff’s work at Hidden Vision Photography on Facebook.