Fire Scenes @ night


TPF Noob!
Dec 7, 2010
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I am a Captain on a small volunteer fire department. One of my "jobs" is to take pictures on a fire scene. My daytime pictures come out great. I however have no luck at all shooting at night. Everyone is constantly moving, the only light you have is from the fire and as it diminishes so does your lighting. The flash just seems to highlight the reflective coating on their gear and wash out everything else.

All my pictures are out of focus or the subject shows streaking from their movement. Holding a camera still for long periods or a tripod is not an option. I have seen other fire service photographers take amazing pictures at a night fire scene. It amazes me that video comes out just fine. Why is that I see a perfect picture in my LCD viewfinder but it never translates to the picture at night?

I am open to tips or a camera recommendation. My two cameras are a Nikon CoolPix L110 and a FujiFilm FinePix J20
your lcd is in motion just like video. it's at 30 frames per second. you can't take still at night in the same way without it being 1/30th of a second shutter speed, which as you know isn't realistic.

why not ask the other fire service photographers what they're using and how they're getting the photos? you know it works, use it as your baseline equipment. my hunch is you may need a camera with off camera flash and a wide open 1.4 or 1.8 lens.

then start practicing.
Knowing nothing about those cameras, and speaking strictly from an SLR point of view - you have two options. Fill flash, or embrace the chaos.

If you want the other firefighters to be sharp and in focus, you need fill flash.

On the other hand - you could really capture the chaos going on around you by exposing for the fire and letting everything else fall where it may.

You could also come in somewhere between those extremes.

It really all depends...

Do you want something artistic, or more photo-journalist style?
Hey, Pembroke, I'm a firefighter also and the problems you describe are always going to be problems. The one thing that most "successful" fire photographers use is very fast glass. In order to get high quality pictures in extremely low light situations you'll need to invest in #1 a DSLR style camera and #2 a very fast lens. You should look for a lens with a appature of at least 2.8 or faster. The one that that can help is if the department uses scene lights. Any light will help. The reflective gear issue is always going to be there. The DSLR will allow you to adjust your settings to overcome some of the reflections but it's always a problem. Hope some of this helps.

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