Painting with Light

I really enjoy baking with scratch, but never imagined that you could make light for photography from scratch.

Painting with light is a technique we've been practicing in our Advanced Techniques class. It is used, often in scenery, to take pictures of things that would otherwise have been unrecordable.

Painting with light can be used with many different light sources. For our assignment, we used a small LED flashlight, a large tungsten flashlight and a Canon Speedlight flash.

To prepare for our shoot, we set up in our location before dark so we could map out the picture. Then, we set the camera to ISO 100, f/11 and bulb. I bought a shutter release cable earlier in the day to minimize any small camera shake from pressing the shutter button directly on the camera.

Nick Schnelle, Sara Kobeska and I were all paired together in a group. We tried to photograph a couple different places, such as an former prison in Jefferson City and an MU gymnast in the studio, but everything fell through. Other location we visited had too much ambient light that would interfere with the shutter open so long (the exposure in our select was 489 seconds).

So, we decided on the different things we wanted to light, how we wanted to light them and what we wanted to light them with. We went with a mixed light select because we felt that too much white light wouldn't fit with the dark sewer where the photograph was taken, but too much yellow or orange light would look gross. Also, Sara had the ingenious idea to highlight the graffiti words on the wall. I like that we highlight "boho" and "chaos," especially since the words seem kind of fitting for the location.

Wielding the flash, Sara flashed the left wall two times on full power, the center wall three times on full power and the right side of the wall three times on full power. Nick then painted in the water, rocks and columns with the tungsten flashlight for 2 minutes or so (it's kind of a feeling). Then, snooting the LED flashlight and gelling it with the appropriate color, I pointed the flashlight at the camera and traced the writing on the wall, with the word chaos twice and boho four times (the blue gel was darker).

We had to take the picture three times for it to work — the first one was a bit dark and in the second one, the word "chaos" was too bright. "Chaos" is still a bit bright on the third try, but we found the rest of the picture to be pretty perfect and didn't mind it too much.

I welcome any feedback and any questions about the technique. This is one of my favorite techniques learned in class so far and I hope to use it again soon!

Photographs copyright Katie Currid, Nick Schnelle and/or Sara Kobeska © 2010. All rights reserved.