Lighting with road flares: an experiment


I’ve been thinking lately about night shots with the only illumination coming from road flares.

It’s winter here now, with plenty of snow, and the contrast of having a model without little clothing on, in the blowing snow and holding a stick of chemicals burning at 2600° (1425° C) appeals to me. I find it sensual.


To practice for such a shoot, I bought a bunch of flares and took pictures of some fallen trees the other night. I’m happy with the results. Harsh, layered shadows from the tiny colored light source add a sense of depth and an ethereal, hellish feel.

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Technique for the geeks

All pix taken with a 50mm (equivalent) lens.

The first time, I used the camera’s spot meter and metered the snow immediately adjacent to the burning flare, then exposure compensation 3-4 stops over that. This was a hassle as sometimes the camera would revert to normal metering if I didn’t lock the exposure, or I would accidentally meter the flare itself. But it works, if you do everything right.

Better was to do the above as a starting point in manual mode, shoot the picture, check the histogram, and go to town.

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