Light Painting at Altona Beach
Light Painting at Altona Beach © Allan Williams
Last night we left the meeting hall behind and hit the beach. Seemed like it might be a silly thing to do on a cold winter's night, but none-the-less, that was the plan, and thankfully a large contingent of members decided to join us in our madness.
Turned out the weather was kind, the recent rains and winds stayed at bay and it wasn't anywhere near as cold as some of us have prepared for.
Gathered along the waterfront, we were under the tutelage of three light painting masters: Karl, Tony, and Tony. They shared their settings and their experience in making art with light and long exposures.
The rules are simple enough:
- Long shutter speed 15 seconds plus, though preferably on BULB so you can manually open and close your shutter at will.
- Mid aperture, around an F8-10, lets you have a deeper depth of field so there's more chance the movement will be clear throughout.
- Low ISO, most cameras are prone to showing noise in their shadows, and there are a lot of shadows in light painting given you're most often shooting at night.
- Wide angle lens, lets you capture more in the frame. Though you can throw this one out the window if your photographing someone standing way-out in the water and you don't want to get into the water yourself.
I mostly hung around with Tony Hardman's group. Tony was very forgiving when it came to people firing off their timers too soon, or completely missing the shot because our cameras were busy hunting for focus due to us forgetting to change our focus from auto to manual. He often found himself repeating his dances with light again and again. But that's a prefect allegory for light painting, it's trial and error, with a little serendipity at play, to reveal a beautiful work of art.
Tony revealed some of his tricks of the trade when it came to making his light tools, because, unlike others almost all of Tony's equipment is hand-crafted from things he finds around the house, from bargain stores, or that he salvages from his wife's hands as she heads towards the bin with what, to most, would seem like common refuse.
A lot of the collars that connect Tony's light wands to the heads of his torches are old computer mouse mats, cut and bonded to the right size. Their flexible nature means he can use them on a variety of torches (within reason) with relative ease. He has used old water bottles, the foam you find in packing, Coke bottle lids, perspex shapes, children's toys, and hot glue to make his tools. The latter being used in its whole form to capture and funnel light; not just as adhesive. I was very impressed with his range of tools and the interesting light patterns they produced when captured by our sensors.
Tony also told us about the videos by Eric Paré. A light painter based in Canada who makes some beautiful images. You can see Eric Paré's videos on his YouTube channel or check him out on Instagram, 500px, or Facebook.
Eric sells a bunch of equipment you can buy for light painting, as many folk do, but I reckon you're much better off talking with Tony about his home-made gear, he'll inspire you to make your own and to get out and make some cool light paintings.
We have to put our hands up high for the members of our club who so willingly share their knowledge and experience with us all. Our club members' openness is what our awesome little club is all about. Thanks again to Karl, Tony, Tony, and helper Viet who bravely waded into the dark and chilly waters to allow us to capture beautiful images with wonderful reflections.
A note: You'll see some images below made by spinning lit steel wool. If you're thinking of attempting this take the necessary safety precautions. Ensure your wool spinner is wearing non-flammable materials, a head covering, and safety eyewear. Keep water handy, just in case. Be aware that the sparks, the wool, and the whisk you use to spin your wool once lit will get very hot. Do not attempt this alone, and do not attempt this on fire-restricted days. Always ensure you have someone nearby who can help in the, hopefully, unlikely event anything goes wrong.
Checkout the gallery below for some examples of the work we made on the night.