Painting with light1

Lights, camera & action—John Sanglang plays up to his classmates’ cameras during this long 10-second exposure. I walked behind him with the decorative Christmas lights plugged into my portable battery. I didn’t feel like tripping over wires in the dark, that’s why I used a portable battery.

I currently own 4 DSLRs and 2 Point-and-shoot cameras.

That’s more cameras than I have hands.

Even if I wanted to remotely trigger 3 and use one, I couldn’t.

I’d run out of lenses to use on all 4 bodies.

On a recent evening, I got this crazy idea that I would ‘borrow’ all my students’ cameras.

In the process I’d also teach them something about exposure.

What I used:

  1. a room I could completely darken
  2. tripods for every camera
  3. LED lights of different colors
  4. 2 Speedlights  which I could remotely trigger by my radio slaves
  5. a large black backdrop which I attached to the wall

Baseline Exposure

Ian, I picked as the guinea pig for my exposure test because he has the shortest name. In retrospect, I think I should have done more pictures and asked him to look into the camera instead of where he was writing.

Since we were playing with LED lights of different colors, I had to figure out a good shutter speed that would allow my subjects enough time to write their name backwards or laterally inverted.

I chose 10 full seconds because it was easy to count.

Once I fixed that variable for exposure, through trial and error, I settled on a aperture of f16.

Adding Christmas lights in the background made the picture a little more interesting.

There was some tweaking in between because

  • the LED lights weren’t all the same brightness
  • the rate each person took to write their names varied according to the number of letters in their names

In our case we chose 10 seconds because we wanted enough time for the subject to finish writing the average length name.

I looked around the room and picked a student with the shortest name “IAN.” 😛 to begin.

Can you guess why?

Adding some more color

Thanks Danette for sharing this picture. I’m shown here holding Christmas decoration lights plugged into my portable battery.

After figuring out a working shutter speed and aperture and ISO, I asked everyone in the class to set their cameras to “Manual”  exposure mode: ISO 100 @ f16 and 10 full seconds.

Next came the tough part: getting the subject to visualize how to  write their names backwards (laterally inverted).

Once we got that down, I added the single pop or open flash of my Speedlight on 1/32th power.

I had the Speedlight’s output power dialed down intentionally so that the flash would recycle fast and also to conserve battery power.


Next: what else we tried

Peter Phun Photography

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3 thoughts on “Painting with light1”

  1. oh, don’t get me wrong…I have learned so much from all the wonderful teachers at RCC. Each has their own way of teaching and I’ve throughly enjoyed all my classes. I just think you would have been a great one to add to the mix 🙂

  2. Marta!
    How nice of you to take the time to read and more importantly, to comment.

    Don’t sell the other teachers short, they all have their own ways to teach.

    I just prefer to show because it’s engaging and more fun than looking at powerpoints presentations.

  3. I am missing all the fun. I so wish I would have had you as a teacher. I learn so much from you and from this great website! You are awesome Peter!

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