Light My Fire

A little while ago during Corona Virus Lock-Down I spent quite a while wandering aimlessly around the Internet and somewhere along the way I came across a photo of a Cricket Ball with smoke “trailing from it” to give an impression of movement. I liked it … and decided that this was something that I wanted to try.

Only didn’t have a cricket ball lying around. What I did have was a lawn full of dandelions just outside, so, one of those would have to do. A couple of “joss sticks” to provide the smoke and a few minutes later it was in the bag. Simple …


Maybe too simple … how could I spice it up a little and make it a bit different? I know … they say that there is no smoke without fire, so fire it was! One thing I did have to hand was Isopropyl Alcohol for making hand sanitiser with, and one thing I know about Isopropyl Alcohol is that it burns. Set the camera on a tripod with a 5 second shutter speed, a few quick squirts on the poor dandelion then hold the lighter under it. It doesn’t just burn … “wooosh” … and the dandelion is gone. In about a second!

So … that was fun! For that day my pyromaniac tendencies were sated and many dandelions were removed from the garden.

But that niggling little idea was there … “I wonder what it looks like on fire”.

Fast Forward a couple of weeks and I’m sat there dropping strawberries in a glass of water to freeze the splashes … and that though popped up. “I wonder what it would look like on fire”? So I sprayed a little wooden skewer matt black and impaled a strawberry on it. A few squirts of alcohol, ignite and open the shutter …

Somehow not as satisfying, and the alcohol flame is very blue unless part of the strawberry ignites and provides some colour as in the photo above. It soon became apparent that the spectacular flames from the dandelions comes from the actual seeds igniting and not from the alcohol. Also … strawberries … strawberries are great for dropping into liquids, they are fun to shoot … but … they just aren’t right on fire.

Chillies! Chillies and “hot” go together don’t they? Of course they do.

Fast forward a few days and a quick trip to Tesco later and I had a little bag of chillies to play with in the studio. Stick one on the skewer, spray it and ignite.

Disappointing! With very little on a chilli to catch fire the flame was very blue and almost invisible (unless the stalk caught fire). Maybe Alcohol wan’t the perfect flame producing agent after all. Mixing liquid hand sanitiser with some gel sanitiser got a better flame and some acceptable results, but, not consistently.

There had to be a way to get a better, more colourful, flame.

Enter the Internet. The internet is a great place to look for information it turns out. You go to this thing called Google and ask it what ever you want and it gives you 50,000 assorted answers that range from how to make napalm in your bath to a video of a squirrel making a right hash up of exiting an electricity pylon. BUT … somewhere in that lot was a little comment from an amateur fire breather who likes to spray vodka from his mouth and was disappointed with cold blue flames and wanted orange!

And there it was … the top secret ingredient!

As simple as that!

Now I can spray non flammable surfaces and still get a nice orange flame. No more cold blue flames … we have colour! Even on things that don’t themselves ignite and rely purely on the alcohol burning off for the flame.

My inner pyromaniac is sated … for now.

But how long before that little niggle resurfaces …

“I wonder what it would look like on fire…”?



Posted in General, Photo Stories.