Had a fun opportunity recently to work on a project for Afton Chemical Company.  We’ve done a few things for them in the past, and they are generally interesting and fun challenges, put forth by Mike Wilson.  For Afton in the past, we have digitally created a fictional “Auto Repair Row,” with a range of vehicles stationed in front (from, I think, about a zillion source images):

And, we have created a jungle scene in the studio (very little post work in this one, actually):

For this most recent one, I got to play with fire.  Literally.  The concept was to show a fireman donning a fire proximity suit proximate to, well, fire.  Intense heat was what we wanted to communicate, as the Afton product provides protection in such situations.

There was discussion of using stock imagery for the fire source, but I really wanted to provide all the source images (and besides, could not pass up an opportunity to set things on fire.)  I started small in the studio with the old lighter and can of hairspray technique.  It was fun, but the resulting flames were too jetted.  A friend told me that corn starch, when blown across a candle, will burst into a fireball, and this was the sort of thing we were after.  So, this time in my backyard, I blew cornstarch across a couple candles, and, sure enough, it does burst into a fireball (as long as you don’t make a direct hit and snuff out the candles, that is, which I did with a fair amount of frequency.)  These were promising, but the technique itself was not quite reliable enough to give me the number of source images I wanted, and, too, the flames were not “rolling” the way I had envisioned.

So, getting impatient, and thus far disappointed my neighbors had not yet called the police, I decided the best way to get what I was after was to build a fire in my fire pit, and douse it with gasoline.  A zip lock baggie was just about the right amount of gas, and provided a handy delivery method.  With the continuous drive on the camera firing away, I dropped about a dozen or so bombs on the fire and ended up with some great source images for my big fireball:

Digitally putting various bits and pieces of these and other source photos yielded a pretty good fireball to begin with:

Believe it or not, about the most difficult part of this job was finding the fire proximity suit.  I had put in calls to several prop houses in California, and I talked to one source that said they could get me the suit.  The cost of rental plus shipping was going to be high, but at least I had found one.  Fortunately, I did not cease looking locally, and heard that the only folks in town that would have one would be the airport fire department.  I made a call over there, and they did indeed have a suit that we could use.  (Side note:  When picking it up, I had the opportunity to drive across multiple runways through the airfield, which, if you have not done it, can be a bit unnerving.)

The challenge in the studio was to photograph Rich in the suit in a manner which would tie in with the light and color of the fireball.  Several gelled lights on either side of the suit, and white lights above and front did the trick, along with some photoshop work on the face shield for dramatic effect.  We wanted to include a reflection, so Rich was photographed standing on black plexi:

And finally, the elements were pieced together with care taken to give the appearance of flames lapping around the subject:

All Photos ©Jeff S. Saxman and may not be reproduced in any form without expressed written consent.