My most recent photography adventure brought me to Voluntown, CT, this past weekend.
I was invited to a private birthday campout by Andrew, a fire-spinning buddy of mine, for some portraits and action-shots.
His location was wonderfully hidden away from everyone, on a swampy piece of family property. Between alien-looking, multi-colored WTF bugs, the brutal humidity, and the ever rising tide of COVID-19 infections, I think we were able to pull off a successful photoshoot and birthday celebration.
We started with a simple headshot portrait session.
(They look like high school yearbook photos!)
Andrew wanted updated images for his social media accounts, including some portraits and fire-spinning images showing him doing his thing. A headshot session in the swamps of Connecticut was a great opportunity to test out some updated flash-photography gear. I showed up with three Godox TT600 manual flashes, gelled and attached to lightstands with Godox Bowens-style mounts, and triggered them all with a Godox X2TC remote attached to my Canon dSLR. They worked flawlessly, and not needing a separate set of triggers for each flash helped to cut down on both set-up time and neeeding additional AA batteries to keep charged.
One thing to note about editing style is that I like very punchy color and minimal “Photoshopping.” It’s not my thing. I don’t aim for flawless skin, frequency-separation, digital airbrushing, or body-sculpting. I prefer to show people as naturally as I can even if it means occasionally wiping down shiny skin, caused by sweating in a humid environment, from time to time.
Afterwards, we shot some fire eating portraits
(Needless to say, Andrew is a trained fire-performer. Do not attempt to eat or play with fire, in any way, without the required training, safety equipment, and a crucial lack of common-sense or self-preservation. Don’t do it!)
The reason Andrew reached out for a photo session together is that my specialty is fire performer photography, and we were able to put together some images without the pressure of photographing a fire spinning act in a live setting. We could take our time, toss ideas out to each other, I could light it how I wanted, and he could use whatever props he wanted to be photographed with.
Thankfully, the air was relatively still and whatever minimal breeze did happen consistently blew one direction and was barely a factor. There would be no way to safely eat fire or perform vapor-torch tricks in swirling air!
Andrew played around with other fire props
The rest of the photos we took were centered around the dedicated fire-circle Andrew set up, ringed by citronella torches. To light photos with the fire staff and dragon staff, I had the key-light gelled with CTO and set the camera to 3200K, or Tungsten white balance, in order to preserve the yellow-orange flames while simultaneously reducing their influence on over all color cast. A red-gelled flash was aimed to cross with the key light in order to add a touch of dramatic fill-lighting.
To photograph the fire sword and fire flail, I changed lenses and turned off the flashes in order to grab some action shots, lit only by the props themselves. It was obvious, to me, by this point, near the end of the photo session that 1) I was sorely out of practice with fire performer photography, and 2) I was getting very tired with a 2 hour drive back, so it was safest all around to call it a night.
I did have the option to camp out in Nightshade, but I thought it was best to let Andrew focus on his birthday celebration campout with his other friends, who were wonderfully accommodating of my COVID-19 concerns, and very much stayed a socially distant 6-10 feet away, even when enlisting some to help with other photo ideas, even if those ideas did not work out.
We also used an LED dragon-staff for some photos
Misc images and some outtakes
There’s normal flow-face, and then there’s I CAN SEE GOD flow-face…
One last thing
Something that every portrait photographer needs in their camera bag is good portrait banter.
I tend to ramble during a portrait session. For example, this is what I was saying while guiding Andrew’s head, face tilt, eyes, shoulder placement, and expression:
Andrew looked at me with the most incredulous “what the fuck is that supposed to mean??” expression and then found himself fighting the urge to smirk, as if he just ripped an uncomfortably moist fart, before he burst into laughter for a few seconds, and then quickly recomposed himself.
I may have said something completely bizarre but his eyes came alive in this photo, and that is all that mattered. It ended up becoming one of my favorite photos of the entire night.