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Playing with Fire

Published August 26th, 2012

During my recent trip to New Brunswick, I was looking forward to try and reproduce this shot of a campfire, one of my favourite shots on 500px. There is not exactly a lot of space to make a fire in Toronto, let alone photograph it before being cited for having no campfire permit, so I was really looking forward to my first attempt at photographing flame.

I took dozens of captures and was pretty pleased with them at the time. When I finally got them onto a computer, I wasn't as happy. Again, what I was trying to get in focus was a little too fuzzy for what I was going for. This lead to some creative use of the crop tool.

This is my favourite capture so far. I've used two different processing approaches and I'd like feedback on them both.

At first, I tried cropping out all but the embers, which I liked. Adam pointed out, however, that he would have liked to see where the fire was going. I liked this idea, too, and went on to remove some background distractions. Since I was removing distractions anyway, I thought I should try processing the photo in black and white, and I really liked the results.

Any feedback is welcome, both on photographic and processing technique.


Original Capture

Something I didn't anticipate being a problem with shooting a campfire was smoke! One of the reasons I like this capture so much is that it has so little smoke around it, showing off the really crisp flames.

Crepitant Flames

Really enjoyed taking photos of the campfire during my recent vacation to New Brunswick. This is one of the best shots. It was hard to get in close enough without risking melting my equipment, as the fire had been going strong for several hours at this point.

As usual, I rue my choice of f/4, as the background flames are not nearly as sharp. However, some poignant cropping helps focus your eyes on what's in focus. I used the burn tool to hide some nigh-invisible background details to focus on the flames, used Topaz DeNoise to get clean it up, and some other touch-up work in photoshop.


I'm still experimenting with black and white post processing. I really like the juxtaposition of fire, which is usually associated with rich, warm colours, with black and white processing that makes the fire appear cool.

This is the same capture as Crepitant Flames with a different crop and processing.

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