Archive for the ‘Painting with Light’ Category

Trevor Williams: A Master of Light Painting

June 17th, 2011 No comments

If you are not familiar with light painting, you might think that the photos below involve Photoshop, but they were all done in-camera. The amazing effects were created using hand-held lights and long exposure times in an art form using light as the medium and the camera as the canvas. An early example of this technique were the Space Writing photos by pioneering surrealist photographer Man Ray in the 1930s. But the technique has come a long way since then!

Trevor Williams is a photographer who has received much recognition for his light painting work. He has written a chapter in the book Photo Op: 52 Weekly Ideas for Creative Image-Making and will be featured in a documentary film about light painting. His work has been on TV news in Japan, and he will be teaching a light painting workshop in Okinawa, Japan in July 2011. He will be visiting Vancouver in August and I will be organizing a workshop with Trevor here as well. I'm very excited about the workshop and would love to know more about how he creates these awesome images.

More information and reservation form for the Light Painting Workshop

Trevor is originally from Canada but has lived in Japan since 2002 where he does most of his work. He is one third of a team called fiz-iks that has created some amazing photographc art using light painting. Here are some examples:

The Gate



Phill the Thug
pink eye

Kids in the hall

If you are inspired by these images, check out these links too:

More photos on Flickr

Light Junkies Flickr Group

Featured artist on Light Painting Photography

The Amazing Light Paintings by Trevor Williams

Cool Background Ideas – Light Painting & Smoke!

March 29th, 2011 2 comments

Pink Potion

Here are the resuts of some quick test shots using black lights, smoke and light painting.

The subject was a vintage glass bottle with a ground glass stopper. I noticed a lot of these in the shop of Yusuf the chemist in Mombasa in the movie Inception! As a chemist, I'm always interested in vintage laboratory and apothecary items.

I made the pink fluorescent liquid by soaking the felt insert from a pink highlighter pen in some water. It worked really well! Here's more information about how to make liquids that glow under black light.

For the black light source, I used a UV Cannon and a 12" UV fluorescent tube.

I generated the smoke using a stick of incense. To light up the smoke, I used a Paul C. Buff  X800 White Lightning strobe with a pink gel, and a 10º honeycomb grid and barndoors to prevent light spill on the bottle. The background was a black nylon fabric. The bottle was placed on a piece of white foam core.

I've used smoke quite often as an interesting background - it works best with a dark background and backlighting. In this case, I had the light to the right of the camera and behind the bottle, out of frame. For people, I have a fog machine that gives great smoke effects on a larger scale.

To get the above shot, 1. Pink Potion & Smoke, I set the camera on a tripod and used second curtain sync (slow sync) and a 2.5 sec exposure and CyberSyncs to trigger the flash. I was below the table with the smoking incense, using a remote control to trigger the camera.

Pink potion & nebula

2. Pink Potion & Nebula - Exposure 71 sec, f/9.0, 100 ISO

For the next shot, 2. Pink Potion & Nebula, I used painting with light to create a nebula-like effect. For the the background, I used white seamless paper with a black nylon fabric covering it. With the black fabric in place, and the camera set to bulb, I started with a couple seconds of blacklight, then shut them off. While the shutter was still open and the studio in darkness, I removed the fabric to reveal the white seamless paper, I painted it with a Maglite flash light, with a blue gel over it some cool the light a bit, then closed the shutter with the remote. It took a few tries to get a background that I liked!

Pink Potion & Abstract

3. Pink Potion & Abstract - Exposure 48 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100

The third shot was done in a similar way as the second, except that I also used an LED flashlight and did not use the blue gel on the Maglite. The LED flashlight actually has three separate beams so it created trails in groups of 3, making an interesting abstract design.

If you are in need of a unique background in your still life or product photography, you might want to give these a try. If you have some similar examples, please share links to them in the comment section!






11 Tips for Painting with Light Photography

March 21st, 2011 No comments

Calla Lily

Calla Lily: Painting with Light 55 sec at f/8.0

Painting with light is a great technique to create interesting lighting effects using ordinary flashlights. It's very simple to do and once you get into it, the possibilities are endless.

All you need is a flashlight, tripod and a camera that you can set to manual exposure. Also, the room must be completely dark. I like to use a MagLight because you can focus the beam, but any flashlight will do. LED flashlights work great too.

  1. White balance - conventional flashlights use tungsten or halogen bulbs, so you should set your camera's white balance to tungsten to get a natural looking light. LED flashlights are often closer to daylight, so you should set your camera to daylight white balance.
  2. Exposure - you can use any aperture, although I prefer to use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop) to give me more time to do the light painting. A wide aperture will be harder to work with because it's easy to overexpose the image. I set my camera to manual and use the "Bulb" shutter speed and a cable release. You can also use a long shutter speed such as 30 to 60 seconds. If you set the self timer you can trigger the shutter without touching the camera.
  3. Rapidly moving the flashlight will create a soft light with fewer shadows. If you hold the flashlight still, you will get sharp dramatic shadows.
  4. Avoid going over the same spot more than once or you risk overexposing that part of the image.
  5. Make sure you cover all the subject with light. Any areas that you don't buy ambien online paypal paint with the flashlight will be very dark or completely unexposed.
  6. With a digital camera you can look at the image on the camera's LCD screen after the shot to see how it turned out. This makes the technique a lot easier than it would be with a film camera!
  7. Focus the camera first and set it to manual focus. This way the camera's autofocus won't kick in when you open the shutter.
  8. Avoid moving the camera during the exposure or you will get some blurred images. Even though the camera is on a tripod, because you are working in the dark it's easy to bump into the tripod and nudge the camera out of position. If that happens, your image will probably not turn out - although sometimes you may get some interesting double exposure effects!
  9. Turn off the camera's noise reduction feature because it takes a long time for the camera to process the image after each shot when you have long exposure times. I use Lightroom's noise reduction on the the RAW image in post-production.
  10. Avoid pointing the flashlight directly at the camera's lens. Shade the flashlight with your hand or a small rolled up piece of black bristol board. If the flashlight points toward the camera you will get trails of light - sometimes this might look pretty interesting but usually you probably will not want it.
  11. Use coloured gels over the flashlight to add creative colour effects.

Painting with light is a lot of fun and it's amazing to see the lighting effects that you can get with such a simple set up!

Have you tried painting with light? If you have, post a link to the photo in the comments section below.

Mystery Vase

Painting with Light Exposure: 80 sec at f/16



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