Friday 11 January 2013

Van Elder Photography - Light Painting with fire, a fire wall.

A guide on creating a fire wall aka fire painting

by Van Elder Photography
Credit: Von Wong & DAS - Cracheur de feu
for the original Idea

Credit: Ric Harris for input and assistance

Before you continue please ensure you have read the two previous blogs relating to fire painting a firewall.

I have been asked on a number of occasions how I created the firewall shown in the above image, in this guide I will show you the basic concept from which you can let your imagination go wild! - fire painting will be one amazing adventure.

What you will need as a basis are the following item

  • Camera with 30" (or bulb) Exposure.
  • Tri-pod.
  • Colemans Fuel or other flammable fluid, this must however be contained within an approved container.
  • Old Jug (or something similar).
  • Strap/Rope.
  • Firewall Holding Device
  • Lighter
  • CO2 extinguisher.
  • Damp/wet Towel.
  • Appropriate Clothing, don't wear something than can catch fire easy! 
  • Assistant.

Before I continue, please let me remind you that playing with fire and flammable fluid is very dangerous, add to that an open container of flammable fluid and things could get very nasty, very quickly! - Please make sure you follow some basic safety advise before you continue.

  • Never light the strap close to the open container of flammable fluid - flammable fluid will be dripping off the strap when you remove it from the jug which will leave a trail of flammable fluid on the ground - this WILL catch fire!
  • Always ALWAYS close your flammable fluid bottle and move it far away from where your jug/starting point will be.
  • Stay clear of ANYTHING that can catch fire, bushes, trees, grass and cars!
  • Keep a wet towel close by, wrap this around the strap to kill the flames
  • Keep a CO2 extinguisher close by, just incase!
  • Once you have completed the pass you will extinguish the flame by wrapping the strap/rope in a wet towel, ensure this is prepared and ready! - Please see the video for an example of how to do this.
  • Use your common sense, I have warned you!  You do this at your own risk and that of others around you.

Now that we are safety first minded, let's continue!

  1. Set up your camera, pointing to whatever your subject is.
  2. For the composition determine where the start and end points should be for your firewall, then mark them on the road with stones so you can remember where you have to walk between.
  3. Camera settings vary really, but a good starting point is 100ISO, F14, Shutter as long as you need.
  4. Place your strap into the jug, bearing in mind that it needs to come out untangled.
  5. Pour the flammable fluid into the jug, ensuring all of the strap has been doused in the flammable fluid - Try not to spill any, If you do move from that area.
  6. Close your flammable fluid bottle and move it far away from where your jug/starting point will be.
  7. Leave the strap to soak for about 2-3 minutes.
  8. Attach it to the Firewall Holding Device and prepare everyone and do some final safety checks before you continue.
  9. Remove the strap from the Jug and walk at least 3 meters away from the jug, fire will drip off the strap and may cause the jug to catch fire if you are too close!
  10. Ask your Assistant to light the strap, it is important to light it from the middle to ensure even burn.
  11. Open your shutter using a remote release or ask your assistance to open shutter once the strap has been lit - If you don't have a remote trigger you may require a 3rd Assistant - One to light and one to manage shutter - I use a wireless remote and control the open and closing whilst walking.
  12. Now walk quickly from the starting point to your end point.
  13. Close your shutter.
  14. IMPORTANT: Your strap may still be alight at this point, ensure you extinguish it correctly, place the strap on one half of the damp towel and cover up with the other side, removing all oxygen and killing the flame - failing that stamping on the towel should kill them - now leave it to cool, it will be very hot. 
Review your image, re-adjust settings if required - You may have to close the aperture or drop exposure a bit more if parts are over exposed.

Now rinse and repeat until you have achieved your desired image.

As a little extra I've put together a video to show you the tools required, how to extinguish the rope and some BTS Footage from the Ultima GTR shoot, I hope this helps!

  1. Van Elder Photography Facebook Page.
  2. Colemans Fuel
  3. Kevlar Rope
I hope this guide has helped you understand the basic concept of the firewall, why not try different types of rope or straps, try different liquids, or maybe soak parts of the strap in fuel so only certain areas burn? - try smaller ropes, angle the fire, there are literally limitless possibilities!

Don't forget to head over to my Facebook Page and give it a like!

I now hand over to you, try to be creative and show us what you can do with your firewall! - Please post your results on my facebook page!

Stay safe and FLAME ON!



  1. Hi, great idea indeed but I have a question. Don't you neeed any other kind of light, ie flashes, to illuminate the car properly? In the image with the GTR looks like there's also a light coming from above :-) Thanks for your feedback and for sharing this trick, and yes, looks dangerous indeed :-)

    1. Hi, thank you.

      Yes, for the final image i did also light paint the car, to help it stand out a little, for this tutorial I only covered how to create the firewall.

  2. Thanks a lot for your promp feedback Barry, I love using very different lights as well and even played with fire for one particular shot, but it was a very less complicated and dangerous set up :-)You can see some of my stuff at if you are interested. Ciao Nicola

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. G'day Barry,
    Thanks for the video. It uncomplicated the whole process for me and gave me a few ideas that I will try to put into practice as soon as the state wide total fire ban ends.


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