You’ve probably already heard a million times that the word “photography” is derived from the Greek words for writing (‘grapso’) with light (‘phos’). The great thing with photography though, is that you don’t need to be Greek or have the math skills of Archimedes to have your own Eureka moment. I still remember the shot I took that made me decide that I wanted to be a photographer; it was part happy accident and part light painting (something I became so enamoured with that I made up a whole new word for it)! I was taking pictures of Christmas lights with a little point-and-shoot. The combination of a long shutter speed and a photographer who had no idea what a shutter speed was, let alone why you’d want a tripod, resulted in an amazing abstract image filled with glowing streaks that captivated me immediately. I stayed out shooting that winter night till I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore.
Photographers are creative and artistic people, and whether we approach our work from a very technical standpoint or adopt a more fluid intuitive process, we can still make magic happen. In fact, I think that one of the coolest and most surprising things about photography is that it is a craft that can be learned and enjoyed by very technical and scientific people just as much as by very right-brained artistic people. Light painting is the perfect example of how this works.
Light-painting can be roughly broken down into two categories – either the camera moves or the light moves. If your style is more Jackson-Pollock-splash than Miro-colour-block, you may enjoy the first category. Experiment by setting your camera to a long exposure, heading downtown, and shooting while sweeping, shaking, and swinging your camera around (a strong camera strap is critical here!) It isn’t an exact science – the exposure times and results will vary widely, but you’ll soon start to learn what you like in terms of colour combinations and styles of camera movements. Photographers who prefer to have their paintbrush firmly in hand may enjoy a technique called stenciling – cut shapes or words out of the bottom of a cardboard box, point this stencil at the camera and pop your flash inside the box. Magic! If you have been longing to express your inner Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire, light painting is also for you. You can use any number of light sources – try flashlights, glow sticks and sparklers – to trace graceful arabesques in front of the camera. Experiment with incorporating multiple sources like flashlights and speedlights if you have a dance partner with you. Remember that you can use these techniques indoors or out, and that the location you choose will impact how much of the light you are able to control.
There are dozens of other light painting techniques that you can research and try. While you can always use these techniques at home or in the studio, with fall rapidly approaching we can take advantage of earlier sunsets and longer nights to get out there and experiment with outdoor light painting. Who knows, you may discover that you are the Van Gogh of photography, or rather… photozografizy…!
Undark the Night Light Painting Workshop
Saturday, October 26th, 1-9 pm
Join Greg Gerla and Julya Hajnoczky at Studio 122 and spend a full day learning dozens of amazing indoor and outdoor light painting techniques. With applications for architectural, portrait, still life, fine art and just plain fun photography, there is really something for everyone in this exciting workshop. You’ll spend the first half of the day in the studio learning how to make stencils, create light smoke, and make dramatic portraits. Then head out as a group to work on outdoor techniques like fire rain, painting with strobes and speedlights, and zooming and panning methods. You’ll get to experiment with a huge variety of light sources that we provide, see what effects they produce, and get suggestions on how to use your own. Find out about the many options for gear and equipment you can use to craft your own light painting images, and learn the technical skills that will help you produce stunning photos. Come expand your creative repertoire, and undark the night!