I understood that in order to focus properly on the match, I had to attach it to something. I found a small clamp and fastened it to a heavy object that would withstand the pressure while the match was lit. It actually took some time before I realized the logic behind this "heavy object":
Yes, it was a fire extinguisher! That made this whole situation much more comforting. Only problem would be that the extinguisher caught fire first, making it unusable, but I didn't have time to worry about that. I was here to shoot pictures.
I sat the camera on a tripod and attached my new remote control. This was pretty much it.
I often get tunnel vision when I find something interesting. That happened during this shooting. During the shooting of the first match, I was so caught up in looking at the result on the LCD-screen that I completely forgot that the match was still on fire! By the time I found that out, the match had melted the plastic coating on the clamp... Luckily, I had several of those:)
Until now I haven't put the D300 to the extremes. This time I finally did. By trial and error I found that I could go as far as the fastest shutter speed possible! That also meant increasing the ISO to the max and using a pretty wide aperture. Still most of the sparks would be appear with motion blur. During the test shooting I had to narrow the aperture a little because of the extremely shallow DOF, but the exposure seemed fine.
Strobe: A 1 inch match firing at full power
Camera: 1/8000 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 3200
Lens: Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro
Camera: Nikon D300
Shooting and post-processing
I focused on the match manually, swiped the match with the matchbox and pressed the remote shutter in burst mode (about 6 fps on the D300). Changing the match everytime was a bit tedious because the handle on the fire extinguisher was curved, making it difficult to fasten the clamp.
After 112 shots and seven matches I found a kind of interesting shot. This is the untouched RAW file:
In Adobe Camera Raw I only reduced the noise, which was definitely needed at ISO 3200, even on a D300. In Photoshop I cloned out the flares on the right side of the flame. I also adjusted the levels just a little bit and burned the head of the match (as if it wasn't burned enought in the first place...). I ended the post-processing with a square crop and rotation.