Photographer Markus Hofstaetter doesn’t shy away from challenging projects. Inspired by a previous fire-background hot-rod photo shoot he did, Hofstaetter had the idea to try this same technique with a portrait. There would just be one key difference: this one would be a single exposure.
A photo shoot like this is all about safety, and Hofstaetter did everything he could to ensure his subjects, assistants, and the backyard stayed nice and unburnt.
He got himself a heat-proof suit from the Muckendorf-Wipfing fire department, moistened the entire backyard, cut away stray branches to ensure he had enough room, had damp sheets at the ready, and actually built a little pond in his backyard. That last part did keep the couple a bit safer, but it was actually all about getting a killer reflection in the final photograph.
You can see how the photo shoot came together in the behind the scenes photos and video below:
Once it came time to shoot the actual photo, he used a Canon 5D Mark IV and 35mm lens set to F22. The full exposure was 4.4 seconds long. The fire background was made by dipping a 6-foot-long Kevlar wick into one liter of lamp oil, hanging it on an aluminum stick, and setting it ablaze.
The exposure lasted as long as it took for the fire to cross the frame, with a nice burst from two Hensel strobes to light the couple.
The final photograph took 4 or 5 tries, as you can see from the BTS video above, but in the end Hofstaetter managed to capture the memorable portrait he was after:
The photo has made its way around the Internet over the past week, but something people don’t know is that Hofstaetter’s initial plan was to capture the shot on both digital and large format film (his specialty).
“You see there also a large format camera (Linhof Master Technika) in one photo,” he tells DPReview. “I wanted to shoot film too, but it was too stressful to handle both cameras, because I had to light the fire too. Plus, I couldn’t get the analog camera in a good position with the lenses I had available… next time I’ll try to shoot it on film too, and maybe get a wider angle lens for the Linhof.”
All photos © Markus Hofstaetter and used with permission.