November 2, 2010

there is always a "pain" in light painting!

A few weeks ago I had a photo shooting scheduled with Nathalie, former co-worker and amateur model. I fiddled around with the idea of doing some Atton Conrad style light painting, because I was very impressed and inspired by his outstanding work. Have you seen his Hennessy commercial? Great stuff. Anyway. I’ve evaluated some possibilities of imitating his style and I thought going for some glow sticks would do the trick. So I ordered a bunch of them at and did some test shots with a stuffed animal to get a feeling for the camera settings and the movement of the light.

On the day of the shooting I set up my black seamless and told Nathalie to go for a “less is more” style regarding her clothes. I duct taped an array of nearly 20 different-colored mini glow sticks to the end of a rod. I put the camera on a tripod and snapped some shots without light painting at first to balance the strobes. Then I switched to bulb exposure. The following procedure was truly a trial of patience. Nathalie poses on “three”, the light is switched off, the camera is triggered remotely, I move into the picture and try to do some cool looking stuff with my “lighting rod” (half-blind, I might add), the camera gets triggered again. Lights on. That was done countless times. If it hadn’t been for Nathalie’s sister, who was so kind to assist as a “human light switch”, and my wife triggering the camera, I probably would have stumbled to death in the darkness of my small studio.

The results were staggering. The first, and most fatal, problem was the lacking light intensity of the glow sticks. I already chose an aperture of 4.5 and didn’t want to go below because of the desired DOF. As a result the glow sticks had to be moved very slowly to get a visible effect. Therefore I wasn’t able to execute a smooth movement and the light trails looked jittery and very, very uncool. The second problem was the model’s pose. I wanted to wrap the light around her as if she was dressed in it. So she had to remain static the whole time. Of course one can’t exactly persevere in the same position for a few minutes, so there were some inconsistencies regarding the blocked and the visible lighting trails. The latter could have been corrected in post-processing of course. The former, not.

So I’ve learned my lesson that day. I won’t go for another light painting try for a while. Maybe one day, but not in the near future. We’ve switched to some reliable lighting setups that evening and got some descent shots anyway. So at least you get to enjoy her legs… without any painted light…

|those legs|

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