What fluid for fire ?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Focus, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. Focus

    Focus Guest

    What kind of fluid can I use for a ring or stripe of fire in sand? I tried
    alcohol but it's gone before I can start my lighter.
    Maybe lighter fluid? Petroleum, ether? I want a nice looking fire without
    big clouds of black smoke, so diesel is not an option.

    The idea is to make a figure in sand (beach) and light it up then take some
    pics. I guess it should be a little thick or almost like a gel, otherwise it
    might "sink" in the sand before it can burn.

    Any idea's or experience?
    Focus, Apr 15, 2008
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  2. What about the gel used in rechauds (which is just gelled alcohol and
    thus environmentally friendly)?
    Or napalm.

    Jürgen Exner, Apr 15, 2008
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  3. You can probably use Sterno, a gelled alcohol product for cooking or keeping
    food warm. The problem with this is the flame from alcohol is pretty much
    invisible to the human eye during the day. It is a bit more visible at
    night. You can take some gasoline and Styrofoam and make a gelled fuel, but
    it will give off black smoke and piss off the environmentalists.

    You might want to consider getting some sawdust and try soaking it with the
    type of fuel that will work best for your needs. You can soak it with paint
    thinner or any other flammable liquid. Spread this out on the sand and burn
    away. When you are done you can just kick it away without any environmental

    Personally, I would go with powdered magnesium for a more artsy feel.

    Rita Berkowitz, Apr 15, 2008
  4. Focus

    Focus Guest

    The first option is mentioned more times, so I'll try that anyway. I'll be
    shooting at sundown and night, so maybe it's enough light.
    The sawdust with some fuel is an excellent idea! I'll try to get some "sand
    color", so it won't stick out on the beach.

    Magnesium powder? Isn't that the "first" flashlight? More of an explosion
    than burning, right?
    But I'm willing to try anything.... once!
    What kind of stores would sell that magnesium powder?

    Focus, Apr 15, 2008
  5. Focus

    Charlie Choc Guest

    Mix in some table salt for a yellow flame.
    Charlie Choc, Apr 15, 2008
  6. Focus

    RobertJM Guest

    Don't know how thick a line you are looking for but, what about soaking a
    bit of rope in something flammable. (make sure your hands are cleaned before
    lighting ;) ).
    RobertJM, Apr 15, 2008
  7. Focus

    C J Campbell Guest

    The usual method is gasoline, but it is not very environmentally friendly.

    Your local fire department might have some ideas. They can be
    surprisingly helpful and might even send a guy out with a fire
    extinguisher to watch in case things go bad on you.

    There is a photographer in Las Vegas who set fire to a $10,000 Vera
    Wang wedding gown just so he could photograph it burning. (He says the
    bride was in the dress, and the dress was on fire, but not at the same
    time. The two pictures were Photoshopped together to put the bride in a
    burning dress. He used a blow-up dummy to fill the dress while it
    burned, noting that the dummy, like Joan of Arc, died a virgin.) He
    used gasoline and had a fireman standing by with an extinguisher for
    safety purposes.

    In any event, I would check with the fire department. Most departments
    are full of guys who would probably have some good ideas on how to get
    exactly the effect you want.
    C J Campbell, Apr 15, 2008
  8. Focus

    C J Campbell Guest

    One other thing occurs to me: you might want to check out page 62 of
    "The Moment It Clicks" by Joe McNally.

    In fact, I strongly suggest you do so.
    C J Campbell, Apr 15, 2008
  9. Focus

    Jenkem Guest

    If you are quick, and the weather isn't too warm, upturn a Butane
    torch so that the liquified gas is sprayed out through the nozzle.

    In my student days, we occasionally put a ring of Butane into the
    carpet and waited for a victim to step onto the spot before dropping a
    match. Actually didn't damage the carpet too much.

    Jenkem, Apr 15, 2008
  10. Focus

    bob Guest

    I saw a product used by railways to heat up the rails in winter before welding
    in replacement pieces. Rail is usually laid in summertime, at 60 degrees or
    more, so in the winter the piece is too small and must be heated up to expand to
    the right size. They used to burn long ropes soaked in fuel oil, laid for
    hundreds of feet beside the rail to equalize it all, but now there is a special
    product. I forget the name... (don't lay much track myself... ;) )

    Thought this would give you some ideas... burning lines of snowy track is quite
    a sight at night... but that stuff makes smoke visible in the day.

    I hope to catch an emergency track crew working some night - with my camera...
    bob, Apr 16, 2008
  11. Focus

    Buy_Sell Guest

    Don't use alcohol. The flames are almost invisible in daylight and
    blue at night. Gasoline is too volatile as it vaporizes too quickly.
    A rope soaked in kerosene or Coleman's camping fuel will probably work

    STANDARD DISCLOSURE: Be very careful. A fire extinguisher on hand
    might be a good idea. Last year, we lost our local park because a
    father and son decided to spend some quality time launching model
    rockets. It took the fire department many hours to put that blaze
    Buy_Sell, Apr 16, 2008
  12. It's a cool effect, but a tad brighter than what you are looking for. It's
    good for a bit of nostalgia.

    Rita Berkowitz, Apr 16, 2008
  13. I'd throw in some copper sulfate for a nice green flame, but if he wants
    blue he can add in copper chloride.

    Rita Berkowitz, Apr 16, 2008
  14. Thermite.

    Rita Berkowitz, Apr 16, 2008
  15. Focus

    frederick Guest

    How about a solid instead?

    "Hexamine" solid fuel tablets - as used in army ration pack cookers.
    frederick, Apr 16, 2008
  16. Focus

    Pat Guest

    I've never done it, but for a true special effects look, I think you'd
    have to use propane with a ring of tubing under the sand. Then you
    can control the size of the flame, turn it on and off, etc.

    With a remote igniter and some spare time, you might delay lighting it
    and get some interesting, tall flames (but hopefully not a fireball).
    Pat, Apr 16, 2008
  17. Focus

    Buy_Sell Guest

    I don't recommend using any gases at all. Try to find a liquid fuel
    that vaporizes slowly. It is the vapor that burns. Proper fuel/air
    ratio so to speak. Most gases tend to explode when you try to ignite
    them unless they are properly controlled. When I was many years
    younger, we filled a plastic garbage bag with acetylene and remotely
    ignited it. That had to be the loudest sound that I have ever heard
    in my entire life and it shattered many windows in the process. I
    don't want to ever do that stunt again as it was absolutely
    deafening. You might want to try using the oil that is used in liquid
    candles and mix it with sawdust. Play safe...
    Buy_Sell, Apr 16, 2008
  18. Focus

    Buy_Sell Guest

    As an example of how dangerous gases are, here is a youtube video clip
    of a camper trailer filled with garbage bags full of acetylene. The
    guys decided to have some fun and fire tracer rounds at the trailer.
    As you can plainly see, acetylene is not a gas to mess around with.
    The trailer is instantly vaporized. i.e. Completely gone in a split
    Buy_Sell, Apr 16, 2008
  19. Focus

    Bryan Olson Guest

    My favorite fuel for show fire is the lighter fluid for cigarette
    lighters, which is a naphtha. The "lighter fluid" for starting
    charcoal briquettes is different.
    Some time ago, I made my living as a juggler, and torches were a
    major draw. For night shows outdoors, nothing else compares.
    Cigarette lighter fluid is quite a bit more expensive than gasoline
    or kerosene, but it gives off less heat, and burns brighter. Many
    performers use white gasoline, such as Coleman fuel, which also in
    the naphtha family though it gives off more heat.

    All the fuels I've worked with evaporate rapidly. On sand, I expect
    they would sink in a little, but largely coat the upper grains until
    they burn off or evaporate.

    Oh -- working with fire is dangerous. Consider the risks, then err on
    the side of caution by a factor of 100 or so. Be sure your burning
    fuel will not ignite other fuel, have extinguishers at the ready, and
    never work with fire alone.
    Bryan Olson, Apr 16, 2008
  20. Focus

    Focus Guest

    Just kidding of course!

    Let me start by saying: you people scare the crap out of me! You know more
    about blowing up things and setting stuff on fire than the average
    terrorist! LOL!

    I really like your idea: I'm going to the bombeiros volantários (volunteer
    firefighters) today and see what they say.
    Love your story about the wedding dress. Inspirational too.

    Here's a few early try-outs:

    I tried several options: lighter fluid seems to do the job easiest, but is
    very expensive. Alcohol is quick, but not much yellow flame. Then I had some
    special petroleum for lamps, but it didn't want to burn at all! Even after
    soaking some saw dust that I got from a pet store.

    Of course I forgot how fast the sun sets here: in about 2 minutes it's gone
    from start to finish! So I was fooling around in complete darkness.
    I like the flames and the kind of PS effect I got from the slow shutter
    speed. I should have dragged a tripod along, but my hands were full already.

    Just in case anyone wonders: yes, I did clean up the beach after the shoot.

    Thank you all for your suggestions. When I get more I'll post some pics.
    Focus, Apr 16, 2008
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