[Photo diary] Shutter speed is really important when you take fire performance photos (torch twirling photos)!


Hello! I’m “Yocean”, an amateur photographer.

I stayed in Myanmar for the New Year holidays with my favorite camera.

In Myanmar, I went “Nyaung Oo Phee island” located in the southernmost area of the country.

This time, fire performance photos (including torch and light twirling) are posted on the blog, which were taken at the resort island.

The night show is held every night at the island, and everyone can see Myanmar traditional dances and fire performances for free.

Fire performance photos look totally different depending on the shutter speed and it is good practice exercise for photographers, so I tried it too.

These photos and pieces of advice which I felt during photographing are on this article. I would be happy if these advice are helpful for beginners.

Please take a look then!

How to access to Nyaung Oo Phee Island

Nyaung Oo Phee island, Myanmar is similar to Ishigaki island, Japan as they are located in the southernmost part of the countries.

The easiest way to get there is by airplane and high-speed ferry via Kawthaung. It takes about 2 hours from Yangon to Kawthaung by airplane and about 1 hour from Kawthaung to the island by ferry.

Recently, the island was developed as a resort facilities by travel agency in Myanmar. It’s very safe there because there is nobody else other than the staff members and tourists in the island. In addition, the resort facilities have a free WiFi. You can stay there without inconveniences.

I took part in a local tour organized by TKZ Hotel & Tours in Yangon. The staff members and tour guides were gentle and warm-hearted, the bungalow where I stayed at was very clean, and all of the food are delicious.

However, some staff members only speak Myanmar or Thai language, so it was a little tough to communicate with them in English.

If you can’t speak these local languages and WiFi is unavailable, this book would be really helpful for communicating with local people. That is because useful and essential travel phrases are well-organized in 3 languages (English, Burmese, and Japanese), and it might help tourists to point and speak.

Even if you come to japan, the phrasebook can be useful, I guess.

[Photo 1] Vigorous torch twirling (with high-speed shutter)

The night of the island is really dark. Then, at the same time the fire performance begins, all the light goes out and it becomes pitch-black.

I recommend preparing for the photo shooting previously because it might be difficult to change the lens or to set a tripod in the darkness.

If possible, you should grab a spot for shooting as close as possible to the bright stage. Having done that, you can collect a lot of light into the camera-sensor and increase the shutter speed easily.

Finally, the show begins!

First, I chose a faster shutter speed to take a vigorous photo.

FUJIFILM X-T20, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS,
Focal Length 37mm, F-Number 4, SS 1/25, ISO-3200

At a glance, it is a good picture, but I think the settings (F-number and shutter speed) are incomplete.

Since I didn’t imagine how should I take the show in advance, I freaked out of the quick motion.

Looking back, I should have minimized F-number, set ISO value to about 6400 and increased the shutter speed as much as possible in the case of shooting active show.

I would like to take care of that in the future.

[Photo 2] Artistic torch twirling (with low-speed shutter)

During fire performance, the shutter speed can be easily adjusted by changing ISO-value.

The key to take an artistic photo is setting the shutter speed to “the time when the torch becomes a circle“.

If the shutter speed is too long, a lot of unexpected light beams are recorded and the essential part of your picture may be unclarified.

In my experience, the time when the torch becomes a circle was “approximately 1 sec“.

※Please note that it’s just a reference and it depends on the situation.

FUJIFILM X-T20, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS,
Focal Length 18mm, F-Number 2.8, SS 1.1, ISO-400

It’s off the subject, but when you take a night photo with high-speed shutter, high-end equipment is advantageous in respect of collecting light. For example, Full-frame camera is better than APS-C, and Single focus lens is better than Zoom lens.

On the other hand, when you take the photo with low-speed shutter, there is no difference between these equipment. Even a combination of APS-C and Zoom lens can take a good photo only by increasing ISO-value within low-noise range.

However, I want high-end equipment after all. Ha ha

[Photo 3] Light twirling (blue), a modern art (with low-speed shutter)

Recently, “Light twirling show” have been increased instead of “dangerous fire show” in the consideration for performer’s safety.

I don’t know the details of how the rod project visual images, but I guess illuminating LEDs show the images programmatically as the rod rotates.

Although the light twirling do not make us thrilled and pound our heart-beats faster, it impresses us with different feeling from torch twirling.

FUJIFILM X-T20, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS,
Focal Length 18mm, F-Number 2.8, SS 0.71秒, ISO-400

The performer looks like a wizard casting a spell, but the way he does is like a martial artist obviously. lol

[Photo 4] Light twirling (red), a modern art (with low-speed shutter)

Afterwards, I took a light twirling photo in different color.

Unlike torch twirling, various colors and infinite number of patterns can be shown by light twirling. I think that is the good point of this performance.

If you could adjust your shutter speed to the rod-rotating speed, the beautiful sphere shape would appear in your photo like this.

FUJIFILM X-T20, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS,
Focal Length 18mm, F-Number 2.8, SS 1/3, ISO-400

It looks like A.T. Field which appeared in an old Japanese anime, doesn’t it?

Individually, I like a fusion of traditional performance and modern art. I’m happy just by looking at it, and even more so when I’m taking the photo.

[Photo 5] Finale, Artificial firework!? (Steel wool spinning)

The last performance of the fire show is an artificial firework, generally called “steel wool spinning“.

As the performer whirl a burning steel wool around in a circular motion, the burning sparks of it fly out and create bright orange trails like a firework.

Especially, the firework looks more beautiful at the island surrounded by pitch-black darkness.

FUJIFILM X-T20, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS,
Focal Length 33mm, F-Number 3.6, SS 1/6, ISO-400

I was so into taking photos that I forgot about the time.

I think “Torch twirling with low-speed shutter” or “Steel wool spinning” is the best shot in this blog.


This is the first time I’ve taken active photos such as this fire performance, because usually, I take landscape and flower photos.

When taking event photographs, we have to decide camera settings within a limited time according to the brightness of the object. That is really difficult for beginner, I felt.

I’ve experienced it firsthand, and now I know how amazing professional photographers are.

By the way, professional photographers usually have 2 or 3 cameras during taking event photos. Probably, they don’t have enough time to change camera settings as well, which I understand now.



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      I really appreciate your reading my article and leaving comments. Your comments were very encouraging for me. I will try to keep writing interesting contents. I hope you check out my other articles! Thanks again.

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    • Yocean Yocean says:

      Thanks for your comment from Thailand. Nyaung Oo Phee island is also near from Thai, isn’t it? I had seen a lot of birds there too. It’s really a good place, I think.

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      Thanks indeed! I’m really happy you said that. Most parts of my blog are written in Japanese, but I’ll continue to post English contents in future. If you have time, please take a look at my other photos on Instagram as well and give my regards to your friends.

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