Caution: Don’t try to do this at home.
I second-guessed myself seeing flickering flames from a distance behind our workplace. As I pulled closer, it was Joshua Callaway, a newly hired co-worker practicing his art of Fire Poi. The Poi light illuminated the eight feet tall backdrop of snow pile. Perfect, I have always wanted to get some slow shutter stills of controlled flames in motion.
Ryan Monica, another co-worker, was already in cahoots with Joshua on the scene videoing with his DJI Osmo Action and Drone cameras.
Given the unintended opportunity and being put on the spot, I fumbled to grab my camera and juggled my memory on which camera setting to shoot Joshua in action.
Fire Poi is an art of fire spinning using wicks made from Kevlar (a flame-resistant synthetic fiber for manufacturing tires) or Technora (a chemical-resistant thread eight times stronger than steel)
Poi’s source of flame is from the wick dipped in fuel. They also called Knobs, typically in a set of two, then set on fire, and spun in numerous acrobatic and dramatic effects.
Tradition Poi originated from the Maori Culture choreographed as a group performance with vocals and music. In the 1950s Fire Poi made it to Hawaii as a tourist attraction entertainment.
Today fire spinning Poi has gained broad enthusiasm and adapted to various schools of dance and can be witnessed in festivals and juggling events around the world. Now, Poi has even made it right at our backyard.
Joshua Callaway picked up Fire POI five years ago after seeing friends hurling rhythmic motions of fire with their Poi set. He was captivated.
Fire Poi practitioners get passed on without any formal education. Most spinners pick up the art from friends, and while at it, they teach each other.
In a dark background, the fast movements of flame are mesmerizing. Spinning fast, Joshua goes into another dimension. Sort of trans-like. He dances as all limbs synchronized independently. The two chains with wick of fire balls get hurled swiftly in a rhythmic motion. Fire is no longer a fearful element.
“I am in meditation,” said Joshua later, describing his state of the mind while his POI is in motion. Joshua also quickly spoke of his amateur status and that he is learning the art and wants to improve.
Fast movement in low light! I realized the photos of fire on a slow shutter would be decent, but I also wanted to give some prominence to the artist in performance. Some shots need to focus on his expressions.
The aerial view always gives spectacular perspectives. And so it did. See Ryan’s an awe-inspiring action video below.
Video by Ryan Monica