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Playing With Fire | Von Wong Demonstrates The Power of Today’s Smartphone Cameras

By Hanssie on April 27th 2015

If you follow Benjamin Von Wong’s work (and who doesn’t?), you’ll know that he is always up for an adventure or challenge. Whether it’s jetsetting to the ends of the Earth for a shoot in the middle of a cave or taking the staff of SmugMug on the edge of skyscrapers to make them superheroes, Von’s Wong’s work is usually exciting, interesting and enviable. But has there been a challenge that Von Wong has not been able to best?

Recently, Ben was hired for another dream job – to create the “craziest photo” he could using fire. The caveat? He had to use an unreleased smartphone to do so. Photographing fire is extremely challenging as you could imagine. (He gives some of his tips for shooting fire in this article here). Ben said,

In the best of conditions, fire is one of the most challenging elements to capture. Not only is it dangerous, its luminosity varies with time. Long exposures result in motion blur, and the high contrast between subject and flames typically means that an amazing camera with a large dynamic range is necessary. 

An amazing camera with a large dynamic range, such as the $38,000 Mamiya Leaf Credo he usually uses.

BTS_FireAngel_Photo by Sean Sim

For their global launch, Huawei 8 wanted to make a splash (of fire, that is) and presented Ben with three additional “rules” to make the challenge even more difficult. Besides using a smartphone to photograph fire, Ben needed to use the phone’s Lightpainting function, the model must be surrounded by fire and absolutely NO PHOTOSHOP.

Could he pull it off? Could an epic fire photo be made with a tiny little smartphone camera? Come on, this is Benjamin Von Wong we are talking about. Of course, he could.

Von-wong-fire-1 BTS_FireWingTest_Photo by Dan Lim BTS_FireRain_Photo by Sean Sim

On the day of the photo shoot in Shanghai, the element of rain added another piece to the challenge, but even with the cameras pointed on him while shooting, Ben was able to capture the resulting final image:

von-wong-huawei-1Read how Ben did it, how a smartphone was capable of photographing something that usually is captured with a $38,000 camera and see more behind the scenes images in his post here.

Watch the full length commercial featuring Ben creating some fiery magic in this video below:

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Warren Senewiratne

    Wong is inspiring!

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  2. Trevor Good

    I have been following Benjamin Von Wongs work now for about 2 years and I am constantly amazed at his creativity and the opportunity he has created for himself. His hard work and persiverance has inspired countless hordes of individuals (including me) to push myself and try things I never imagined possible. Although I still have not done a photo shoot involving Fire, I have pushed myself to learn new techniques and work to inspire other photoblog rappers to do the same.

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  3. PJ Gang

    Great Stills

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  4. Richard Bremer

    Really good looking image. But what is that round thing attached to the phone?

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  5. Rafael Steffen

    Just amazing! One of te coolest shoots I have seen so far!

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  6. Jake Stifler

    wow that was something diffrent…can anyone tell how to do that with a DSLR

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  7. Thomas Horton

    Awesome photographs. Those were brave models!

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  8. Arnold Barr

    Von Wong Is a “BEAST”!!!!!!!!

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  9. John Cavan

    As always, he nails it. Ages ago he did a shoot in Hong Kong with the Digital Rev guys (it’s on YouTube) and a toy camera. Some fire rigged up and creative positioning later, a great image. Good tools certainly make the job easier, but the great imagination and thinking can help to overcome when you have more limited resources.

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    • Vonw Wong

      Thanks! Gotta get back and hang out with the digital rev guys, they were fun!

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  10. Phil Bautista


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  11. Rob Harris

    The camera is the tool. It is the artisan behind the tool that creates the masterpiece. I am not a Wong (yet), but I will point folks to this article the next time they look down upon anything less than a full-frame camera. Something I do share with Wong is the idea that creativity is not bound by tools.

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