© 1999 by Glen Gaffney
As a photographer I am always looking for new subjects to shoot,
and different things to try.
After reading an article in a photography magazine about painting with light, I was really
motivated to try it.
First I went out and purchased some flashlights. I got a minature one called a mag-lite,
which had several different colour attachments. Then I got some larger flashlights big
enough to tape filters to them. I also purchased a 1 million candle power searchlight.
Then I purchased a 12 volt
battery to connect to the searchlight.
The next stage was to brainstorm for subject material. I decided I would do
some table top photography with glass tumblers. But I knew I had to add some
"juice". A term I use to describe another element to give the image high impact.
I selected three nice looking tumblers for my first image. Then I set up the scene lining
up three tumblers in a row with black velvet background. Using the large flashlight with a
red filter and 100 asa film in my camera, I then lit the glass tumblers from overhead for
2 minutes per firstname.lastname@example.org Then, the next move was to add the blue mist effect. I used a blue
floodlight in front of my 105mm lens, I knew I would not get any lens flare as the lens is
recessed. The exposure for the mist was done on the automatic exposure meter and was
unrecorded, the camera was a Nikon f90. I was very pleased when I got my results back. The
odd thing was that the mist effect only worked on the blue floodlight.
My next idea was to have a tilted glass appearing to float on top of water, but done in a
way that would not show how it was secured. To do this I purchased a small aquarium, then
made a frame inside out of 2x2 wood. I painted the wood black, and cut a nick in the wood
to secure the glass.
Next I filled the tank with water, and put black paint in it. Then I put a few soap suds
in so the veiwer would recognize it as water. Then I set my camera up on a tripod, using a
105mm lens. I painted with light on the minature glass with red filter, for 2 minutes @
f2.8 on 100asa film.
Next I added the blue mist to the bottom half of the image. Again using the cameras
exposure meter to record the right exposure.
Next I tried searchlight exposures. To do this I would go out at night [usually
on clear nights] to isolated parts and experiment. I recorded exposure times. I found
through painfull experience not to hook up a searchlight to car battery. I blew my air
conditioning, as my exposure time was too long. What I learned from my research is that it
is important to have no ambiant light. Also , I could have very effective saturated reds
and greens if I used thes filters on the lens of my camera. then I learned to scout for
subject material during the day. Again I started to brainstorm fro scenarios. I wanted a
scenario of 2 pup tents and a small tree about 10 feet high. Going to work one day I saw
the perfect tree about 10 feet high and leaning. I went out on a clear night and set up
the two tents, I put an electronic flash slaved in both tents, and flashed them off 4
times. The f stop was f4 for the tents, a 28mm lens was used on a f3 Nikon. Then I used
the searchlight to paint light on the grass with a green filter on the lens, exposure time
was 2 minutes @f5.6 on 100 asa film. Next, I light painted the tree using a red filter,
the exposure time was 90 seconds @ f.8
This image was #1 in a nationwide filter contest in a photography magazine, I also,
managed a 5th place as well.
I wanted to do a huge subject with the searchlight. I picked out an isolated old abandoned
log cabin. It was on a highway with very light traffic, it was a perfect scenario, fitting
all my criteria. I went out on a clear night to photograph it. No doubt about it this was
a challenge. I went back quite a few times before i got the correct exposure. I had to
open up 3 stops for the trees in the background. I used a 100 asa film on the log cabin
with a red filter, exposure time was 2 minutes @ f5.6. also used a 28mm lens. The grass
using a green filter, was also a 2 minute exposure @ f5.6. The background trees I split
into 4 sections because of its massive size exposure time was 4 minutes @f2.8 for each
section. The image did win a local contest, the judges commenting on how different the
The next scenario I tried was truck tail lights at night. I scouted for an
isolated highway, which was winding and facing north, as I was considering star trails as
an element in the image. I finally found what I was looking for. Now for the action. I
soon found out, when I got my images back, that the trucks had to have lights at the top
to have high impact. Unfortunately, it was to late to chance as I had to press the shutter
before the truck went by. Another negative was oncoming traffic headlights, I prepared
myself for this scenario by using a black card to cover the lens. I decided to light the
road the shoulder and the side of the road. I, always, turned my searchlight off whenever
any cars were quite a way off. One night a cop saw the light from my searchlight and spoke
with me. He told me he thought it was a UFO. The exposure time on my road shots with a
28mm lens was about 20 minutes as it was qiute a big area. Also I had to turn my
searchlight off a lot as soon as there was any traffic. An aperture of f5.6 was used on
these images. The star trails were a disapointment as there was a problem with moisture on
clear nights in that location. The subject material is very limited in painting with light
via searchlight. When it was all over,I knew a lot more about light, and I had a lot of
fun. All in all it was a very interesting experience.
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