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 miniature one called a mag-lite, which had several different color 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 tabletop 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 [email protected] 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 the 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 2×2 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 viewer would recognize it as water. Then I set my camera up on a tripod, using a 105mm lens. I painted with the light on the miniature glass with a 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 camera’s 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 painful experience not to hook up a searchlight to a 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 ambient light. Also, I could have very effective saturated reds and greens if I used these filters on the lens of my camera. then I learned to scout for subject material during the day.
Again I started to brainstorm for 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 an 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 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 light was!
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 a high impact. Unfortunately, it was too 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 quite 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 disappointment 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.