My light painting endeavors have stepped up a notch. I made a new set of paint brushes. No, I didn’t pull out chunks of my hair and attach it to wooden sticks, I’m talking about light painting brushes. Never heard of light painting? Here’s how it works…
If you have an SLR (digital or film), place it on a tripod and set the camera on manual. Set the aperture on F8 (works well for most simple light painting, although you might have to adjust) and the shutter on the ‘bulb’ setting. If you can get a cable release for you camera, most of them have a lock feature that will keep the shutter open until you close it, that way you don’t need to be at the camera holding the button down the whole time. Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights. Oh, and this process must be done in the dark or in extreme low light. Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.
Now that you have the details on the camera end, let me tell you about the art tools. Your flashlights are your brushes and color gels are your paint. You can do this without the color gels, but I like using them, well, because I love color. This photo is of my new set. I had a set of color gels leftover from my pre-photoshop days. These are the same as theater light gels. Cokin makes the photography set and a company called Roscolux makes some as well. For the new flashlights, which I made to take down to Casa Hogar Elim for the kids to play with, I used duct tape to attach the gels and color coded them with the duct tape.
The black cards on the left have a set of colors I made from gels and photo mat boards. They have velcro on the back so I can attach them to a flashlight easily. And no, you don’t have to get that fancy with it. You can just hold a gel over the light. Simple. I do a lot of this so I have an entire suitcase of flashlights, from pen lights all the way up to my Cyclops.
Cyclops is a very large flashlight… 15 million candlepower. The light bulb in it is a car headlamp, if that gives you a reference point. I have some color gels that fit over Cyclops. This ‘brush’ comes in handy for light painting buildings or any really large spaces. Cyclops is rechargeable and cost about $40 at Costco. You can also get some nice 1-2 million candlepower lights at any retail store.
Some other types of lights that work well are pen lights for drawing, LED lights are good, but make sure to get the very bright ones. I prefer the warm light color of the incandescent type bulbs versus the new LED’s. Not as energy efficient, but if you’re picky about the warm tones…
Okay, let me show you some examples of light painting. I did a series for an art gallery showing a while back. The show was called ‘excessable’. It was photos of how we have so much excess in our culture and the entire series was light painted.
These were all painted with several different types of flashlights, each exposure lasting anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes.
Here’s a photo from light painting with the kids at Casa Hogar.
You can also do light painting using black and white. This is from a film camera, my Nikon 6006 with Illford B&W film. You can also get the ghost images with the light painting by painting a person or object, then moving it and painting the space where it was.
This is one of those art things you have to experiment with a lot to get a feel for what your final images will look like. It is a lot of fun though!