In late 2014, I was given a few pieces of piping — what you might call trash, but which I call the “ring of fire.” It ended up being an incredibly useful tool in my photography. I quickly decided to add it to my (now literal) bag of tricks along with Prisming, Lens Chimping, my Broken Freelens, and Anamorphics.
These days camera lenses are designed so well that they’ll nearly never create a flare. The coatings are so incredible that even against the brightest, harshest sunlight they will not flare at all. This is a good thing! It’s really hard to recover from blown contrast in post processing, and flare is often unpredictable and difficult to compose with.
But what if you could make real in camera flare on command with the ability to transform it and shape it into anything you want?
How on earth am I making the flare in these images? I give you… the ring of fire!
Now, this is just a 1-inch long and 1-inch wide piece of aluminum pipe. But, held in front of your camera lens and given the right mix of direct/harsh sunlight plus handy live view, you have on demand, real, in camera flare. From virtually any lens no matter how new or old.
Incredible photographer Daniel Araiza has a super helpful video published to help you visualize what the heck is going on here:
Of course, with any new technique it’s probably best used in moderation. It’s a little too easy to get image takeover using this tool, but with enough practice you’ll surely get the hang of it.
My favorite lens of choice to use it with is the Nikon 58mm f/1.4. The flare can range from being be more subtle and bokeh-like in shape, or it can be very defined and circular. The shape, color, and texture of the pipe will all play into how your flare looks. That’s one of my favorite things about this ring of fire flare technique – everyone’s will look different!
I’ll leave you with some more of my favorite ring of fire images and I suggest you get out there and experiment. Hit up your local hardware store and see what you can find.