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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Techniques Exploration Group: Painting With Light
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08/13/2006 10:27:05 PM · #1
This is the opening post for the Techniques Exploration Group. Given the list of techniques and recent challenges, I thought we could next explore painting with light. This is the second technique we've looked at; the first was high contrast B&W.

We'll look at this technique until Sunday, August 27, 2006.

The remaining part of this post is standard information for the opening post of each technique; if you've read this intro once, you can stop reading and start working.

Concept
The concept is an informal group exploration of various photographic techniques. See this thread for the details:
//www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=434441. It's all about working together to see what we can learn by doing, not just reading the "right way" written by experts, although experts are definitely welcome to chime in and save us some time! :)

If you know someone who seems especially capable at using a technique, please send me a PM so we can invite her to post something about it.

How It'll Work
For each technique, I'll create a thread in the Tips, Tricks, and Q&A area called "Techniques Exploration Group:" followed by the technique (hence this thread's title).

We'll start out with one technique every two weeks and see how it goes. If you're new to this, feel free to try older techniques. None of the threads ever needs to die. Eventually we should have a nice library.

Let's try to stick to advanced editing rules as a guideline on limits to post-processing. If you really want to go crazy on editing, no one's going to cry foul. But this is a photographic exercise, not a Photoshop exercise.

How to Participate
There's no membership list or set of requirements. Just get started.

The one obligation, as it were, is that everyone should make special efforts to comment on technique exploration photos posted by group members. Comments are the key to improvement.

As for challenges, there's no restriction on whether to use your technique exploration shots. Go for it. Just follow the DPC norms and don't post post actual challenge entries or outtakes until a challenge is over.

In your portfolio, create a collection called "Techniques:" go to the bottom of your portfolio page, click "new collection" and enter the name Techniques. As we start each technique, create a new collection within that master collection. You can see how I've set mine up if you're not sure what I mean.

Everyone interested in a technique should go learn everything they can and then post to the thread what you've learned, tips you've picked up, and URLs we should all read.

Then take some shots and post 'em in your collection. It's as important to share your thinking as it is to post your photo. I find that most of what I'm learning is how to think of a shot, how to set it up, how to make editing decisions and then actually edit, etc. The final photo is the result of the learning, or at least an intermediate step, not the beginning.

Therefore, it's very important for you to describe your thoughts, planning, resources you relied on, etc. in the photographer's box for those photos. This serves as a permanent repository for that good background info, both for group members today and anyone who later starts exploring by bouncing around our portfolios. If you post multiple photos in a series, link back and forth among them to make it easy for people to compare. Follow the instructions in this thread:
//www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=264825

You can look at this photo to see an example:
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08/13/2006 11:00:21 PM · #2
Is this what you're talking about?

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08/13/2006 11:13:14 PM · #3
This one was shot with a handheld small maglite I carry in my camera bag. Details in photographer's comments. Great care was taken to guard against light spillover onto the fence rail under the peppers. These are very small peppers, BTW; no more than an inch and a half. It's an extreme closeup with the 10-22mm lens.

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Robt.
08/13/2006 11:21:43 PM · #4
Originally posted by bryanbrazil:

Is this what you're talking about?

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Bryan - what kind of lizard is that poking its head out from behind the right foreground rock? lol
08/13/2006 11:27:26 PM · #5
Originally posted by bryanbrazil:

Is this what you're talking about?

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Sure. Also this:
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Or this:
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Or anything from either the Painting with Light challenge or Painting with Light II challenge.
08/15/2006 08:28:20 AM · #6
I was playing with this earlier in the year, so I've already got one tip for folk, based on this picture -

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My tip is that, to really get a good effect here, - for example to write words with light or similar - you do need a powerful and specific light. When I tried to "paint" with a LED keylight, which I would consider to be bright for its size, it really wasn't powerful enough at all, and simply splashed diffuse light over the scene.

However, that can have its own uses. I thought that the picture did have a good, ghostly, appearance. The cool white balance conversion helped, of course.
08/15/2006 10:07:30 PM · #7
It's seems that what this Exploration group is missing is some dialog to get things rolling a bit.

The description says, "Use a non-stationary light source (for example, a moving flashlight in your hand) as the primary method of illuminating your subject in a creative manner."

Q: Are there times where you might consider using this technique over others?
Q: Are there times where you might consider avoiding this technique?
Q: Are there light sources that people find work better than others?
Q: Anyone have more details on how they did their Painting with Light?

Just thoughts/questions off the top of my head.
08/17/2006 12:52:45 AM · #8
Bump... Anyone?
08/17/2006 01:05:15 AM · #9
This is what I think of when I hear "painting with light"
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The day before my wife gave birth I took this photo - used a small laser pointer to draw shapes on her body. 30 second exposure. Obviously this is an inverted version, but its the only one in my portfolio and I can't be bothered finding the rest of them.
08/17/2006 02:07:39 AM · #10
My first attempts
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Message edited by author 2006-08-17 02:07:58.
08/17/2006 11:22:18 AM · #11
Originally posted by _eug:

It's seems that what this Exploration group is missing is some dialog to get things rolling a bit.

The description says, "Use a non-stationary light source (for example, a moving flashlight in your hand) as the primary method of illuminating your subject in a creative manner."

Q: Are there times where you might consider using this technique over others?
Q: Are there times where you might consider avoiding this technique?
Q: Are there light sources that people find work better than others?
Q: Anyone have more details on how they did their Painting with Light?

Just thoughts/questions off the top of my head.


Lessee, here are my thoughts.
1) I think painting with light can be its own thing, like the outline of the stick figure above, but it can also be used to highlight interesting shapes. dr_timbo's shot, for instance. It's amazing how the brain fills in the missing details with just a few swipes of light.

2) Not sure.

3) From what I've seen and tried, laser pointers are terrific for displaying shapes, but other more diffuse lights work in other situations.

4) Take a look at some of the challenge entries for good details.

dr_timbo and cryingdragon, I like both of your examples!
08/29/2006 12:41:45 AM · #12
Oohhhhhkkkkaaayyyyy. Guess painting with light wasn't as popular as high contrast B&W.

Mike, what light source did you use for your examples?

I FINALLY found some time tonight to play around, since I'm utterly devoid of any movie scene ideas and I already have a silhouette I might enter. Oh, and the kids are in bed. ;)

As noted above, there are many ways to "paint with light," but tonight I was looking specifically at creating effects by moving a small light around to make streaks.

Bear with me on the number of thumbs here; I'm trying to share the progression in learning along with the actual shots. Also bear with the low quality; none of these shots is challenge-worthy, but I do think I learned something from each one. Maybe you will, too.

First step: buy a fiber-optic pen or some other narrow light source. In this case, I found one at Staples (a business supply store) that switches among several colors and has one setting that continuously and smoothly changes colors from one to the another. It cost $2 or so.

Here it is on the red setting. In normal light, it's nothing special:
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But with the lights off, it provides little dots of light on the end (now in green mode):
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It's supposed to not show any light out the side, but it's a cheap light, so I just covered the length in my hand for some of the shots coming up.

Okay, so what do you do with it?

Well, first, I set up my camera. For all of these shots, I set my camera on manual:
- Shutter was 10 or 15s (the max length for my camera).
- Aperture was 2.7 (the minimum for this camera) for nearly all of these, although I did try it at 5.6 to see whether that would help focus the streaks better. It didn't, so I went back to 2.7.
- Physical setup was the camera on my tabletop tripod with a 2s delay. The delay both helped eliminate motion from my pushing the shutter button and let me get my hands in position.

I started by trying to write random letters in the air. I turned it off and on between letters, which changed the color:
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Kinda cool, but I can see it'll take some practice to make it look good. And you'll need a cleaner background than my dining room table and door!

Notice how the lines look like I'm using a calligraphic pen, not a ballpoint? That's the effect of the light leaking out the sides of the fibers. When I covered up the length to show just the ends, the writing got neater, although not perfect (need more practice). This time it was set to change colors automatically. I tried to write "light" in cursive, but ran out of time to dot the i and cross the t:
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Then I just waved it around to see what I'd get, while changing colors and letting the full fiber length show:
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Okay, so the lights are pretty, but without context, the picture overall lacks something. However, if you want to put something else in the pic, you need to think about you're going to expose it. Here I tried to have "faeries" appear around the top of a flashlight. I set the aperture to 7.1 for this one to try to broaden the depth of field, but then you couldn't see the flashlight at all:
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Changing the aperture to f/5.0 helped show the flashlight more. The only light source is still the fiber optic pen:
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It doesn't look like the depth of field mattered; it's the motion that blurs the lights. The upshot seems to be to get a dot light source and don't try to hold it still as I did in these last two shots.

Then I thought it might work better to show the faeries escaping from a pot.

To keep the streaks reasonably sharp, I covered up the fibers except for the ends. To change colors, I had to have my other hand over there to press the button repeatedly. Awkward but doable:
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First effort was repeated trips into and out of the pot, which didn't look as tidy as I wanted:
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Then I tried just a few passes, always starting in the pot and moving out, then turning the light off, repositioning my hand in the pot, turning it on, and repeating. This pen changes colors each time it turns on, so that made it easy to make different-colored streaks. I got the best results from tonight's session this way. I got the white light in the pot's center in the first two by stirring the light around each time before moving it up and out:
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I guess with more careful, thorough stirring, you could get a more even glow in the middle.

Note how sometimes the lights show up against the white posterboard background, which was only a few inches behind the pot. I suppose moving the pot further forward would help with that.

Finally, I thought it might be cool to light the pot as if there were more faeries down there besides the one that escaped. I don't have a flashlight that fits inside, and besides, it would've blown out the highlights given these were all 15s exposures. So instead I held a flashlight over the pot pointing downward, played with the position a bit to light up the entire pot but not the surrounding, turned off the lights, hit the shutter button on 2s delay, and turned the flashlight off after a couple of seconds. Then I did my thing of moving the fiber optic light around. I got more or less the glow effect I wanted, but I think the best results would come from combining the glow with the individual streaks. Anyway, here's what I got:
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So that's my study so far with this fiber optic pen. Loads of fun, and I'm sure I'll play with it more.

Meanwhile, here's a larger blue fiber-optic lamp that I'm also exploring. It's a little hard to see when it's not on:
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I've used it in two entries so far, and they're 2 of my top 3 results:
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Here's a random page I found via Google that sells these lamps for $6-$20: //www.fiberopticproducts.com/danise/cart.pl?db=stuff.dat&category=Lamps

When I bought the pen, I also bought a cheap laser pointer. It cost about $18. I've seen such a pointer used to very interesting effect, esp. when used to draw lines as the only illumination. For example:
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I just did a couple of quick things with my pointer. The lessons were that it's hard to move it in really a straight line (making that shot above even more impressive) and that it's hard to know where you've been before.

But here are a couple of attempts at writing by my daughter and a tic-tac-toe board by me:
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Okay, now I'll head off and start up another technique, but if anyone wants to follow up with their own studies, of this light-painting technique or another, please continue the thread!
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