Doak Campbell Stadium — Now With 100% More Flame!
This is a commissioned update to the stadium shot which was already posted (twice, in fact, accidentally) to my stream. You can read about the original image here: flic.kr/p/bumvHC. A client found the image online and wanted a print to frame with his son's diploma -- said son being a recent Florida State graduate. And he wanted to know if I could add the flame to the spear -- the flame is typically only present in reality during home football game weekends, and thus the area is pretty crowded during those times.
I realized pretty quickly the best way to simulate a flame would be to not simulate it but rather to actually photograph a flame. I figured staging the flame and photographing it would be the most difficult part of the job; I had a feeling the actual Photoshop compositing work would be pretty straightforward. I decided I needed the camera on a tripod, with a stand-in for the spear I could ignite. I also decided that to ease compositing later, I needed to shoot the flame at night. I found the steel handle from an old sponge mop out in the shed (score one for those of us who hold on to things on the grounds they may one day prove useful!), and started asking around about what to use for the flame. Model-building friends had various suggestions, with the winner being rubber cement. Apparently, it is used for this very purpose in the film and TV industry. After I painted the mop handle with black primer, I rigged it on my ladder to get it up in the air at the correct angle and marked the length I'd need to be ablaze.
And so just after midnight, two days after Christmas (and more than three years after the HDR photo of the stadium itself was made), I went out in the backyard and slathered rubber cement in place and set it on fire. It catches quickly but not explosively and burns brightly for 20 to 30 seconds. I used my Nikon D300 so that I could auto-bracket nine exposures a third of a stop apart. Got several very good flame shots that could have been used and chose a trio of them to submit to my client. After he chose this one, I went back to the RAW images of the stadium and reprocessed them from the ground up. I wound up with a better image than I had before (IMHO), and took the opportunity to remove some -- but not all -- of the wide-angle distortion that had been present in the previous versions.
Client loved the result, I love the result, and I got paid. Can't beat that!