Experimenting with light painting

Since we’ve been having an unusually warm start to our winter in Southern Ontario I was able to spend a number of hours in Niagara Falls experimenting with light painting yesterday evening. This was my first attempt at the technique and I really had a lot of fun experimenting with my Nikon 1 gear.

I recently purchased a 1 Nikon CX 10-100mm f/4-5.6 VR lens and found that it was an excellent tool for this creative challenge. Like anything new my very first attempts were simply horrid, but after a while I began to get a better feel for what I wanted to create and how to do it physically with my camera gear.

Let’s start by looking at some cartoon-type figures that I captured towards the end of the evening after I had spent some time with my technique.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

I had to play around with manual exposures quite a bit before I found a setting with which I was happy.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

Each different subject required some trial and error based on the light intensity and the speed of my camera movements.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

It took quite a bit of practice to create various forms of motion blur.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, efov 38mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, efov 38mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

Creating an ‘imprint’ of the cartoon characters required a split second pause at the beginning of my motion sweep.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

I also had to remember to start with the end position of the characters and work back from there. I had to be very disciplined with my camera movement to create the various light trails I pictured in my mind.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 61mm, f/6.3, 0.8 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 61mm, f/6.3, 0.8 sec, ISO-160

As many readers know, I love to use my camera gear to create abstract ‘photo art’. Light painting was something that I had wanted to try for quite a long time and I really enjoyed the creative challenge it posed.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 29mm, efov 77mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 29mm, efov 77mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

One of the most difficult parts of the technique was trying to visualize where the main subject was on the back panel of my camera because once I pressed the shutter the screen on my V2 would go black due to the slow shutter speeds used.

There was a good amount of eye/hand coordination necessary to try to keep everything in the frame properly. Most of the images in this article are 100% captures. A few required very minor cropping.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 94mm, efov 254mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 94mm, efov 254mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

Not only did I need to consider the main subject of the image, but also all of the extraneous light points that may be exposed during my camera sweeps.

Some surreal creations, like the one above, are certainly possible. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I do love to create totally abstract images with my camera as you’ll see in the following examples.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 52mm, efov 140mm, f/5.6, 2.0 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 52mm, efov 140mm, f/5.6, 2.0 sec, ISO-160

To avoid an ‘imprint’ it is very important to have a consistent speed with your camera movements.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 100mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 100mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

Post production necessitated some very aggressive adjustments. For example, for many of the images I took black to -100 in CS6.

If you haven’t tried light painting before it really is worth a try as it could open up new avenues of creative expression.

A few additional sample images can be seen in this corresponding YouTube video:

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Article, YouTube video, and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

5 thoughts on “Experimenting with light painting”

  1. This looks like great fun Tom ! I am going to give it a try myself over Christmas . . . and wishing you a good one too! Thanks for all of your great N1 work over this year.

    KSPGM

    1. Hi KSPGM,

      Yup…this is a TON of fun! I think you’ll have a ball experimenting with it! Thank you for your supportive comment – much appreciated! The best to you and those you love this festive season.

      Tom

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