You start with a base fractal that is a messy sea of intricate details. You start stripping away elements to create a bit of breathing room. Gradually, you refine the composition and reduce it to its core elements. By the end of this process, you will have revealed the beauty that was there from the beginning.
I started off with just a few transforms, like 3 or 4, and went through all xaos links to see which ones needed to be removed. Then I added an extra transform to create more detail where it was lacking, went over the additional xaos links created, and repeated the process as many times as was needed.
The final image consists of 6 transforms, for a total of 6*6 = 36 xaos links, of which only one is set between 0.0 and 1.0, one is above 1.0, and no less than 13 are set to 0. At least half of the time it took me to make the image was spent tweaking these links and other minor details such as variation weights.
In the end, this kind of effort is totally worth it. A good flame can take less than 10 minutes to make, but a truly great one (which I don’t claim this one to be!) will inevitably take hours of work, spread out over several sessions. That’s how it works for me at least – you’ll have to judge the result for yourself.
This is how the fractal would look like if xaos was disabled. Of course, it never actually looked like this at any point during its making, as the transforms were built up gradually. I’m including it here just to show the huge difference xaos makes in the whole process of creating fractal flames.