Fire and Sky Tutorial

I spent an evening in a remote canyon trying to get a good shot of fire spinning within the canyon walls.  The shots did not work out so well, and as I was leaving, I noticed how many stars were in the sky above the river at the canyon entrance.  I wanted to get a shot that both captured the faint star light, and the intense light from the fire spining.  I set the camera on the tripod and took a few super high ISO shots that were too noisy to use, but that I could use to frame the shot in the dark quickly.


For the final shot that I wanted I knew that I could not do it with one shot, as the range of light was far too wide with both starlight and firelight. So I would have to take two shots.

First Shot

I first exposed for the sky and canyon walls.  I painted light on the trees, by shining a maglite on the canyon walls behind me.  This bounced off the walls and into the frame, the rock wall behind acting like a large softbox to diffuse the light a bit.

This is the first shot:


30 Sec /// ISO 2500 /// f 2.8  /// 11mm

This gave me a good exposure for the sky and a bit of light for the foreground from the flashlight bounced light.

Second Shot

From the same spot, with the camera on tripod, I took a photo to expose for the fire spining.  Far, brighter, the exposure was quite different.


30 Sec /// ISO 500 /// f 8.0  /// 11mm

Post Edits

I used Photoshop to screen the fire exposure over the forest image, so it added its light to the dark area of the image.  I erased the sky of the fire image, so that no stars that had moved between exposures would show or blur.

The final image: