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Fire knife competitions are by far the most challenging thing for me to photograph.  During the competitions I am not allowed to use a flash, and the goal is to freeze the dancer but keep the shutter open long enough to get a full circle of fire.  For example I keep my shutter for 1/10th of second for the very fast start off and 1/8th to 1/6th when they slow down.  I consider how much gas is on the knife or how many knives the dancer is using since 1, 2 or 3 fire knives can quickly change the lighting.  The last variable is time, I only have a few minutes to capture each competitor.  After I fill up a card the images are taken and sent to the Asociated Press.  I don’t even have a chance to look at them, so there is very little room for error.

I staged the first 4 photos below that are going to be used for the 20th annual fire knife competition advertising for next year.  The last 5 are some of my favorites from this most recent competition.


  1. The first time I saw this post, I thought, I’ve got way too much work to do to get side tracked into Mark’s latest and coolest. Plus, I’ve seen great fire knife stuff, so I’ll survive if I miss this one. …. too tired of plowing away at the endless workload and needed a creativity break. Lucky I meandered back to you. These are to die for, blow me away, photos! I’m stunned by how you’ve taken something extraordinary and then put it in a totally new level of EXTRAORDINARY with your lens and angles. Love it!!!

  2. Polynesian fire knife dancers are among the best in the world, and the video below may very
    well prove that.

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