Painting with light, an essay from Norway!
First of all I want to thank Mark Cargill for teaching me so much about photography in such a short period of time, and giving me the opportunity to write a bit about my last assignment, paint with light. This is something I´ve never ever tried before, I had hardly read about it – but Mark gave me clear instructions about camera settings and what could work to paint with light.
I saw before me a few locations that I have visited many times before with and without my camera, and I think that is where you have to start – to find locations you are quite familiar with. I live in the northeasternmost part of Norway, 650 km north of the Arctic Circle, so finding unlit places is absolutely no problem for me. I was struggling though getting my head around correct apertures and shutter speeds since it was a bit too dark here even in early afternoons to get a good histogram.
The first object I tried painting with light is an abandoned house I absolutely love. I revisited it several times, tried over and over again – and didn´t get it right, and I realized I had to ”kill my darling”.
COVER SHOT ABOVE
I wanted to try to use the light from the full moon to take a couple of outdoor shots and the first shot of the breakwaters is shot on a beautiful, very windy, moonlit afternoon. I was hoping to get a nice backdrop to my shot with the sea, clouds, mountains and full moon. I used a LED Lenser flashlight with a blue lense attached to paint the tetrapods and a red laser pen to add some contrasting colour to all the blue. I was experimenting with shutter speeds and the photo I chose is shot at ISO 100, 16 mm, f/5,6, tungsten WB and 254 second.
The second photo (above) is also taken at a location that is very familiar to me and again I wanted to get a nice backdrop and take advantage of the full moon. I used the LED Lenser with a yellow lense and came here a couple of times to try and get it right. Luckily for me I could tell from the histogram I needed a long shutter speed which gave me time to run around and paint the rocks and try to create some movement in the sand. With even more practice I guess I could have created even better ”waves” – but I didn´t have too much time to get the final shot since the high tide was coming in quickly. The image is shot at ISO 100, 16 mm, f/5.6, tungsten WB and 214 seconds.
After having taken these two shots we had a long period with really bad weather, trying to take long exposure photos outdoors was almost unthinkble (but I did try, and the result was not good at all ;) So I had to come up with a plan B and shoot indoors.
I asked my husband to model for me at our local church. I wanted lots of colour in this shot too and asked him to wear his red velvet jacket. I was experimenting with angles and flashlights and ended up using my Maglite. I took the same shot several times since I saw my movments of the flashlight created very different looks. The image I chose had a nice vintage feel to it. Shot at ISO 200, 15 mm, f/5,6, tungsten WB and 30 seconds. I lit my husband with the Maglite for about 8 seconds.
After I got this incredibly interesting and difficult assignment, I tried to learn more about paint with light photography and had seen some really nice shots where photographers had used steel wool set on fire. My problem was I could not get hold of steel wool without soap where I live, so I had to take a 2.5 hr plane ride to the city of Tromsø to get hold of 0000 steel wool (well, I did have a meeting there ;) Once back where I live I returned to a familiar location that I knew could give me a cool backdrop.
My husband was kind enough to model for me again holding an umbrella – I think it would have looked even nicer with a big umbrella, but that was the only size we could get hold of. I climbed on top of the cliff and we had the camera set to ISO 100, 15 mm, f/8.0, tungsten WB and 30 seconds. I put some steel wool inside the balloon whisk, attached a cord to the whisk and set the wool on fire using a 9V battery and started spinning the whisk around (you need to think safety here since sparks are flying far). We just kept taking shots as long as I had steel wool left and was hoping for one good shot. I really liked the look of the shot in colour, but I wanted to try and see what it would look like in monochrome and I think it looks even better.
I had an incredibly fun time trying to get this right, and I can highly recommend each and everyone to get out there after dark!
NOTE FROM MARK CARGILL:
Firstly, thank you Annette for taking the time to write about your experiences of this very demanding assignment. Technically it is about as touch as it can get and you did a great job. Keep up the excellent work, you have a great talent. :)