Portrait of the Artist as a Pyromaniac

The idea for this self-portrait came from wondering what I look like while I’m using the blowtorch on prints freshly coated in resin.  I’m wearing a respirator because it it necessary in the presence of freshly-mixed resin (it gives off some nasty, toxic fumes).  It quickly evolved into an interesting challenge, as the sole light source for the image is a propane blowtorch.  This does not provide much in the way of illumination, and it required a darkened room and a wide aperture on the lens.  Because flames don’t look like much in shorter exposures, and also because of the darkness, a longer exposure was also needed.

However, I couldn’t set the aperture too wide on the lens.  Although I have a remote release with an autofocus button, it was too dark to actually see the camera while I was sitting in front of it, so it was difficult to ensure I positioned correctly for the autofocus.  Also, even the smallest movement during the long exposure would end up putting me out of focus.  So I ended up settling on f/4 and 1.3 seconds at ISO 800 in order to capture this image.  Not ideal, but it worked.

Here is an alternate composition for the self-portrait, which I decided I didn’t like terribly much.  The blue glow of the LEDs on the wireless router ended up being a secondary source of light in the image.  While it clearly shows me waving the blowtorch over the surface of a resin-coated photo, I think it isn’t quite stark enough for the light source.

Self-Portrait While Using Blowtorch

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Portrait of the Artist as a PyromaniacBill Hornbostel
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