Fire Ninjas and Off Camera Flash with PocketWizard

I know what some of you might say. Joe McNally had done a shot of a fire ninja on the beach before so this in not so original. Well, is this a good reason to skip the opportunity to take such a picture? If you meet such an opportunity and think of a picture, should you get lazy just because someone had taken a great picture before? I admit, I was inspired for this shot by McNally’s famous picture and wanted to try it myself. I went back home looking for his book to see what he has done so I could do it differently but unfortunately someone had borrowed the Hot Shoe Diaries and all I could do was look up the image online. By the way, if you don’t have the book yet it is high time you put your hands on it. Joe uses Nikon which has a superior lighting system but it is a must read also for Canon users even if just to know what they are missing . . ;-)

Japanese fire-ninja-on-Arambol-beach-Goa

Off Camera flash with PocketWizard

The good guys at PocketWizard were nice enough to send me some gear to play with and boy did I put it to work. I got the MiniTT1 a couple of FlexTT5 for Nikon as well as the The AC3 ZoneController. It seemed like an unbelievable radio triggers system that, not like infrared triggers, enables the user to use the system in full daylight or behind corners without direct view of the commander flash. I shot a self portrait holding the two flashes, used them in a fashion shoot and at weddings and was very happy but I felt I needed to push it a little further. Not that there was anything wrong with the pictures I took but I felt that the freedom to place a flash practically anywhere, within sight of the camera or not, made me take pictures that looked somewhat unreal. I had light coming from different directions in a way that was not looking natural. What I wanted to do was make the light look real as if I was not using a flash.

The Japanese Fire Ninjas

I met Jonasun and his fire ninjas friends at a musical event near Arambol beach in north Goa last week. Their show was out of this world but was at night and I was with my wife and three daughters so could not really shoot. Joe’s image of the fire juggler on the beach was in my mind immediately but for this I would have to come to Arambol again. We exchanged contact information and finally managed to schedule something a day before they all leave Goa for Pushkar. We were to meet by the rocks on the north part of the beach but until they showed up I was not really sure they will come.

Make it look real

The idea was to get the fire juggler look as if he is lit by the fire alone while still being able to get the feel of the moving fire sticks. For this I needed to have a longer exposure interrupted by a flash boost that will freeze the image. Without the flash the image looks something like this:

fire ninjas


The final image was taken with a Nikon D700 and a 24-70/f2.8 set to 24mm, ISO 280, f/5, and a shutter speed of 1/15 to get the movement of the fire sticks. White balance was set to Fluorescent to get a deeper purple shade of the sky. A green gel on the flash to counter the white balance overcast with an additional orange gel to warm it up. One flash from the left of the juggler and one small burst in the back to paint the rocks. Flash sinc was set to rear curtain followed by a diner and drinks on the beach . . .

* PocketWizard is still not available in India but will be shortly. We will be conducting workshops for advanced users although but in the mean time check out the great videos on the website. Great stuff!

3 Responses to “Fire Ninjas and Off Camera Flash with PocketWizard”

  1. David Parrott says:

    Sephi, for better results you’ll want to avoid the fire being blown out. In order to achieve this shoot with a smaller aperture. 

  2. Thank you for the tip David. Will keep that in mind. Cheers


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