The second main category for night photography tends to be light manipulation: cold cathodes, ribbon lights, light wands, sparklers, srgb orbs, etc.
Think it’s just a silly little trick never used for “real” work? Well, check out this music video that features light painting as part of the concept:
Or this art gallery work done with a collaboration of light painters:
In order to make light paintings, longer exposures are used to record the movement of the light. Since this is done in dim areas, if the person painting with light wears dark clothes and moves continuously, they are usually not recorded in a photograph because light doesn’t fall on them in any one spot long enough to show up in the shot.
Most people who do light painting end up building their own equipment. Black electric tape and gaffer tape becomes your friend, since you often have to tape down wires and mask lighter colored handles from showing up in the shots. Some creations are straight forward concepts, like flash stencils, which kind of act like LiteBrite toys:
Combining different shape, size and color of stencils with some good ole fashion flashlight painting can give you a pretty fantastic result.
Cold cathode wands create ribbons of light that can overlap and create different opacity to the painting:
You can use a strip of christmas (or halloween) lights taped to a stick to create streaking ribbons of color, sparklers to create the look of fire, etc. Though some light painting is about the gear, some is how you paint. A globe is just spinning a light in overlapping circles to create a sphere, for example. But it’s never as interesting when you use one kind of light in a chaotic pattern; creating a true design takes mutliple colors, shapes, lines and an attention to space and how it relates to the composition.
(Images by: Patrick Rochon, Dennis Calvert, Dean Chamberlain, LAPP, Janne Parviainen)
Some techniques take a while to perfect, but here’s a few videos my students have made on making some of this stuff to help with some ideas, and a few on creating cool images, too. (you can find more at my vimeo page–either find it as a link on my class website, or check out the About page here at the blog.)
Remember, the most important things to remember for success with this style of night photography is planning your painting, taking your time, and shooting til you get it all right in one shot! Enjoy…