The RPS had organised a Spooky Wooky Night Shoot at a cemetary in town for Sat evening. I opted to go along to have my first experiment with light painting.
For those of you wondering “what is light painting” check out these links:
Essentially, its using a made/found light source (like a torch) to create or enhance an image.
Its a subject I have done some research on, you can get some very cool effects without having to buy expensive equipment. Like anything, you can get quite silly if you want, but this is a very affordable option for the home photographer to experiement with.
All you need is a camera you can set to manual mode, a nice dark area, a tripod and a light source. I used an LED torch which has 8 LED bulbs in it.
Initially I tried the painting effect where you use the torch to light up the surface of the subject. I made a rookie mistake and forgot to set my lens to manual focus, and because I was having so much difficulty getting sharp focus in the dark, it took a while before I realised what half my problem was.
So I decided to use my torch to highlight the shapes of some of the more interesting gravestones, like the image above. This proved to be an interesting experience, I had to learn the following things very quickly:
- I didn’t have a remote shutter release so I added extra time to the exposure time
- You have to hide the light til you have it in correct position or you get trails
- You only want to move it in one continuous movement to get a clean line
- Every mistake or bobble or wobble is clearly obvious in the final image
- The longer you take the brighter the light
You can see some of my learning experiences visible in these two images, all of the images I show here were the best of at least 6 tries. The writing shots had even more test tryouts, especially NIGHT – I had to have several goes to get the G right.
Initially I was very frustrated, because of my focus issues. Even after I switched the lens to manual focus, I still had a great deal of difficulty getting sharp focus on the subject. Apparently a tip is to shine a light on the surface, which I did, but even then in a dark cemetary at night time, the camera still struggled.
I decided to look for something that had a very flat surface and eventually found a gravestone that looked promising, and had another go at painting the surface with light. Again it took several attempts, both to get a good even light coat, and getting the focus sharp, but I finally achieved this image.
I really enjoyed this experiment, I learned *heaps* and had a lot of fun and want to have another go once I have prepared a little better.
What I learned about Light Painting:
- If you go out on a cold winter evening when there is snow on the ground TAKE ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES. Mine weren’t as waterproof as I thought and I had to go home earlier than planned because I had wet cold feet.
- Wear something with lots of pockets and dress warmly
- Get a remote or cord shutter release for the camera
- Have a good tripod
- Shoot in Manual at F8
- Set the lens to Manual focus mode
- I personally found a 20-25 sec exposure time was about right
- Have several different light sources, the brighter the better
- A headlamp is a *necessity* for working in the dark. I got one in a sale a few months ago and it was fantastic
- Experiment and have fun, this type of photography is only limited by how long your shutter speed is and your creativity
Note: I invested in this eBook on Trick Photography, which has all sorts of cool things, including a large section on Light Painting (check out the painting with FIRE) and if you are into this special effect photography, I recommend you consider purchasing it. I found it really useful and it tells you in great detail how to achieve the effects you see.