Photographing Angle Grinder Sparks: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography, right here on AdoramaTV. I’m Mark Wallace, I am hanging out here in Parkwood Studios with Lydia… you will probably recognize her from videos that we did a few years ago… like I think like seven years ago… they’re awesome, you should check them out. I’ll put links in the description of the video. Well today we’re in a studio, and you can probably hear it’s a little bit echoey and noisy, but that’s on purpose because Lydia has an angle grinder… this thing right here. She is going to be throwing sparks all over the place and so we needed a place that well… we wouldn’t start on fire! And so we have concrete and steel, and aluminum and stuff that’s non-flammable all around us. it’s a little bit echoey, but I think it’s gonna be worth it. So what we’re going to be doing today is… we are going to be shooting something called ‘Rear Curtain Sync’, and that allows us to do something really cool – we can show motion at the same time as we’re freezing motion, and so what Lydia’s gonna does hop back here.. she’s got a piece of steel, and so she can throw sparks all over the place with this thing, and so that’s why I have glasses… and this face shield.. so just really quickly throw some sparks so we can see what it looks like… yeah okay… that is going to be awesome. I am going to be over here at this camera and the sparks are gonna be flying toward that… so that’s why I have this face shield. I’m sticking with my industrial theme here for a couple reasons.. One because it’s old, and this equipment can get sparks all over it… but it’s cool and I just like how this looks. So what we have here is… I have a 28 millimeter Voigtländer lens… so it’s not a really expensive lens, so if it’s destroyed it doesn’t matter. It’s a wide-angle lens, and so that’s really going to exaggerate those sparks coming toward the camera, and that’s gonna be really cool. I have my Profoto acute two heads.. and they don’t even make these anymore, but I love them, and so I’ve got this one here, it’s got a snoot… this is illuminating Lydia’s face, and it’s really restricting where the light is going, so I’m going to meter that a little bit later… Then way over here I’ve got another head, with some blue gel that’s just throwing some colors onto the back ground. So the blue on the back metallic reflective material… it’s gonna really complement the orange from the sparks, so that is going to be really cool, now we’ve already experimented with this and so based on those experiments I have my aperture set to f/5.6, that’s going to allow me to capture the light from the sparks and we’re gonna walk through this one step at a time… show motion, freeze motion, so the first thing I want to do is show you the problem we have with the sparks. Now with our naked eyes we can see those sparks just fine, but let me show you what happens when I try to take a picture… no flash – just my camera set to ISO 100. So it’s at the base ISO… aperture of f/5.6, and a shutter speed of 180… so that’s the sync speed of my camera to the flash… so watch what happens when I shoot this… so Lydia let me get my camera ready here, and all right, it’s going on a count of three… I want you to go ahead and grind… so go ahead… all right, cool, so you see why I have the face shield, that’s a pretty cool picture, but you really don’t see the sparks… we see yeah, it looks like maybe… I don’t know fireflies or something. We see some dots there… but it doesn’t really look amazing, so what we need to do is to slow our shutter speed way down… so I’m going to take my shutter speed all the way down to 1 second .. so 1 second at f/5.6, that should show us all kinds of sparks, and so let me just do that really fast. So my shutter is now at 1 second… all right so we’re gonna do it again… get my safety gear on here, are you ready to grind? Okay let me get my focus all set… it’s all set okay? And go… Cool… alright, now haha, that is a cool picture, we can clearly see that spark are flying everywhere… they’re all blurry, they look wonderful, but we have problems cuz Lydia well she is also blurry… We don’t want that… we want her to be nice, crystal clear, and frozen, that’s where our flashes come in, okay? So what I’ve done here is… you can see that we have this pool of light… we’ve got a snoot on our key light… that’s illuminating Lydia, so I need to meter that… so I’ve got my light meter here, and grab this… it’s got an old-school pocket-wizard transmitter in it… and so I can just meter this really quickly. I want to have this meter at f/5.6, because that’s what my aperture is on my camera and I’ve set my aperture to f/5.6 on my camera, because after some experimenting that’s what gave me the best results with those sparks in the dark. Okay so I’m going to just meter this really fast and that meters right at f/5.6… it’s perfect, so what we’re doing here is… I have this tripod that’s going to lock my camera down, so that I can make sure that the sparks are all frozen in a nice perfect way… because I don’t want my camera to be all jiggly, but I need to freeze the motion on Lydia.. so to do that we need to eliminate all of the ambient light, and only rely on the light from the flash, because the flash is going to be very quick… a very short flash duration… it’s going to freeze motion, so keith is running our camera, so he is going to go turn off the lights to the studio… well he will do that and then in a second he’s going to turn off the video light, and we’re gonna do this picture one more time… so Lydia go ahead and start grinding. Alright…so Lydia has stopped grinding, but when we look at this picture well it’s better… but she’s still blurry… what’s going on… aha we still have ambient light, we have our modeling lights on.. those have to go off, we have to shoot this in the dark… you have to be in complete darkness… so what I’m going to do is I have my cameras at the manual-focus, I’m gonna to manually focus this… make sure it’s all set… that’s why I also have this tripod. I’m going to turn off my modeling lights, Keith’s going to turn off the video light. We’re gonna shoot this in the dark.. and then you’ll see that this works. So first let me get this all focused up, so Lydia look this way… let me make sure I am in focus… and I am… that is all good. Okay now… I’m gonna go turn off my ambient light on my modeling lights, and now Keith is going to turn off the video lights and …start grinding awesomeness. Okay so… what we have here is just sparks… what happened to Lydia? Well I didn’t turn my flash on… so let me turn the flash on… we’ll do that one more time… now the only thing that’s going to illuminate Lydia is the flash, and that’s going to happen so fast it’s gonna freeze her. So here we go start grinding.. Ha ha… look at this picture – it is awesome! We can zoom in here you can see that she is totally frozen… everything is locked in… everything looks wonderful… that means we’ve shown motion with a slow shutter speed… By eliminating the ambient light we’re not showing Lydia except for the flash that happens so fast it’s freezing her… We’ve got it perfectly in focus… still photo with motion blur… it’s incredible, we’re using something called rear curtain sync, so what’s going to happen here is … when I press my shutter release…. the shutter will open… it’s going to stay open for one second and right at the very end the flash will fire and what that’s going to allow us to do is… those sparks gonna be flying… getting all blurry… but we’re not going to see Lydia at all, and at the very last moment boom. we freeze the motion on her face, we’re gonna have frozen Lydia, and frozen Sparks okay? Now that everything’s dialed in… we can play.. so we’re gonna try different outfits.. wardrobe… different stylings, different camera angles, and we’re just going to have some fun, and I’ll show you the results. We’re gonna do that right? Well that was tough… well that was tons of fun… thank you so much Lydia. You can see that we did some costume changes but he actually put charcoal all over her face… we’ve really tried some really fun things, different angles with the angle grinder to throw sparks around, but in the end I think I we got some of my favorite images that we have shot together. So thanks so much for being in the studio today… Hey don’t forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV, that way you don’t miss a single episode, and also make sure you follow me on instagram because i’m always posting behind the scenes stuff… in fact we did some of that today in the studio… So make sure you don’t miss out on that also click the bell so you don’t miss a single episode! Get notifications of the new episodes coming out… Thanks again and I will see you next time.

13 Replies to “Photographing Angle Grinder Sparks: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

  1. Be careful when doing this!!! I bought my first DSLR Nikon D5500 i was taking a picture of a worker grinding something (no pun intended) and after few days i’ve noticed that little sparks (pieces of fine hot metal) stuck on my front element of the lens.. so use some uv filter or protection filter for best results πŸ˜€

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