Earlier this month, I did a photoshoot for a friend of mine by the name of Alliebee Henna. The concept behind it was to simply shoot a dramatic portrait of myself breathing fire in the middle of a sand pit. Nothing more. Feedback when I tossed the image up on Facebook was absolutely phenomenal – over 750 likes and on 500px, I managed to reach page 1 of the Most Popular.

One problem though, my photo was beaten by none other than this picture of an (admittedly cute) kitten.

500px  Al acecho by Alejandro Rodriguez 1

This prompted a whole bunch of reactions on Facebook that generally ranged from people complaining how cats get all the love on the internet so with that in mind, figured I’d do a little social experiment.

This is more or less what it sums up to:

Fire vs cats copy

So if I take a totally awesome shot of myself breathing fire… and slap it next to a slightly less explosive shot of me posing with a kitten on my shoulder, both for the purpose of showcasing the work of Alliebee Henna… which would be more popular?

This is the photoshoot that resulted:

So which image do you find the most interesting? My biased opinion is the fire one is totally far more badass but some people (*Cough* ladies) tend to lean towards the cat stuff so let me know!


Now for the techy guys out there I’m sure you’re all curious to know how the images were shot so this is just for you:

Shot #1 – the fire stuff.

For those of you who have never shot with fire before, I highly encourage you to read this little bit before.

For the rest of you, you should all know by now that shooting fire spitters requires a high shutter speed to capture all the texture & detail in the flames.

All that is fine and dandy if you’re just trying to capture the flames but what happens when you want to add some off camera flash goodness into the mix?

What normally happens is that you hit the flash sync speed limit of 1/250th of a second.

This is where the Pocketwizard’s Hypersync comes in handy allowing me to shoot with flash at 1/800th of a second.

Since I was shooting with fire, we didn’t want to mix colour temperatures so a CTO gel was slapped on my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra lights to balance all the lights out.

From there, all that had to be done was to properly place myself and my camera assistant Claude Campagna Lupien in position and tweak until we got the image we wanted.

Here’s a (beautiful) light diagram:

Camera on hill

VON 8235 Edit

Nikon D800E | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 1/800th sec at f5.0, ISO 100 | Flex TT5 |Elinchrom Ranger Quadra

Shot #2 – the baby panther stuff

Actually there’s really not that much to say about this shot – to be honest the work wasn’t really in the lighting or technique so much as it was in the “OMG CAT STAY IN PLACE”.

Our tools of choice to keep the cats attention were a laser pointerfly swatter, and lots and lots of patience.

Lighting was a simple two point lighting setup – An Elinchrom Deep Octa on camera right as the main light and a brand spankin’ new LumoPro LP180 on camera left to make our cute little kitten pop out just a little bit. We were actually dealing with relatively cramped conditions so I had my camera assistant Chance Nguyen shoot me through a small window with a 70-200 as I tried to flex, pose, look awesome while balancing a cat on my shoulders. (Being a model is hard work!)

Shot2 kitten

VON 8660 Edit

Nikon D800E | 70-200mm f2.8 | 1/125th sec at f6.3, ISO 100 | Flex TT5 |Elinchrom Ranger Quadra

In Conclusion:

I’m quite curious to see the results of this challenge especially since I sacrificed almost all the hair on the right side of my head to make the second shot possible. (Kinda ironic how I lost my hair on the kitten shoot as opposed to one where I’m breathing fire… but I digress…)

I’d like to thank all of you who take the time to comment and vote, and also would like to point out that you can head over to my fan page to run the chance to win a print of your choice (fire or kitten) sponsored by theprintspace.

Also, I’m totally down to accepting a free haircut to fix up my head in either Vancouver or Edmonton where I’ll be for the next two weeks giving a series of workshops and conferences!

The lopsided haircut:

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  • Model: Myself
  • Camera assistants : Chance Nguyen, Claude Campagna Lupien
  • Cameraman: Julius Adarna
  • Henna: Alliebee Henna
  • Kitten & haircut – Derek Fournier Ghorayeb, Gabriel Martin


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Special Gear used:

See what else is in my camera bag when I travel!