Expect the Unexpected, Then Add Fire

I went out shooting last Sunday to find one more photo for my upcoming exhibit. Unfortunately, after driving all around town, I didn’t have much luck finding it. Feeling a bit defeated, I decided to head to Golden Gardens in Ballard and just take in the beautiful sunset. It wasn’t the pink and purple hues of the sky, though, that captured my attention but what I saw after dusk gave way to night.

Bonfires were blazing down the length of the beach, and next to one of them I spotted spinning, twirling, and mesmerizing flames. Fire dancers! I grabbed my camera and tripod and went in for a closer look.

They were using a variety of tools in addition to the traditional poi which has flames at each end of two arm-length chains. One person had a staff burning at both ends while yet another was using “snakes,” long ropes or chains that were soaked in fuel. I’m certainly no expert, so they might have had other tools as well. If anyone more knowledgeable is reading this, let me know if I mislabeled any of the photos so I can fix it.

Below are a few of my favorites. Be sure to check out the one with the little girl looking on. She looks absolutely enthralled!

While I don’t think any of these quite fit the theme of my exhibit in October, they were some of the best ones from the entire day. Which just goes to show that sometimes (OK, often) the best photo opportunities are never planned.


  1. I love fire photos! Well, okay, I just love fire. :)

    We took some similar photos when we were with family a few months ago — my partner’s younger brother has become quite the pyro and is really into twirling and juggling. I certainly didn’t participate… but I enjoyed taking photos from a distance. :)


    • Yeah, it was definitely a lot of fun to watch and photograph. I heard about a more regular gathering that happens every couple of weeks here in Seattle. And apparently they have around 30 people or so. I may just have to check it out one of these days.

  2. These are great – especially the second one down on the right and the third one down on the left. The performer is nicely resolved in these which perfectly offsets the movement. I love movement in shots whether it’s fire, water, or people. Well done!!

  3. Gorgeous photos! I’m sure they weren’t easy to get. I love fire photos but mine never turn out.

    • Thanks! A tripod and remote shutter release were essential. The hardest part, though, was the focusing. Since it was so dark, and they were constantly moving, autofocus was useless. The rest of my settings are always in manual, so it was just a matter of dialing it in until it was just right. I think most of them are either 1 or 2 second exposures.

  4. These photos are really cool. I especially like second down on the right. It looks almost like a gazelle leaping.

    I also like that in some of them it looks like a fire is burning WAY off in the distance.

  5. These are really cool pictures! The fire looks so thick.

  6. Very cool shots Mike.

  7. I love the 4th photo! He looks like he is covered in fire.

  8. love the photos – you caught the fire so well!

  9. Fire pictures are fascinating and you caught the movement masterfully. Very impressive.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for all the kind words!

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