PAINTING WITH LIGHT OVER SPRING BREAK 2014

San Diego — This past week has been Spring Break at City.  I had a few “must do” tasks, like taxes and turning in grades for the short HDR class the first of the semester, then there was a list of some “want to do” things.  For instance I wanted to do some more writing in my Painting With Light handout and also shoot some illustrations for it.

One of the illustrations I wanted to do for the handout is the collection of portable battery powered continuous lights I use. Here is the shot of that collection.

Battery powered lights for "painting with lights" photography.

Battery powered lights for “painting with lights” photography.

  1. Number 1 is a six D-cell MagLite,
  2. Number 2 is a Mini-MagLite,
  3. Number 3 is a Cree light with 7 T6 LEDs putting out about 11,000 lumens,
  4. Number 4 is another Cree Light with one T6 LED putting out about 1,600lumens.

Also shown is the red light (5) for setting camera controls in the dark without destroying your night vision, the modified traffic wand/cone (6) for creating a slit of light, and the Mafer/Super Grip mounted on a monopod (7) I use to be able to get the light high (as.I needed to do for the sea serpent shot in the previous post).

(On Friday I fabricated a 24″ light wand to use with the powerful Cree flashlight but did not have it available for the photo shoot above.  It is made from clear acrylic tube, aluminized mylar for an internal reflector and a teflon sheet as a diffuser.  It looks a little crude until I can try it out and make sure it works and can the make a proper attachment for the light.)

While at the studios I noticed a poor dead/dying flower arrangement and decided to try a shot of it to see if the technique could help it out a bit.  It was shot with the big D-Cell Maglite using the cone/wand attachment for about ten shots from which I selected 8 frames.

Painting With Light shot of old flower arrangement.  Assembled from 10 frames shot with Canon 4D MkII using Canon 85mm f1.8 with the big MagLite and Cone at f8/30 second exposures.

Painting With Light shot of old flower arrangement. Assembled from 10 frames shot with Canon 4D MkII using Canon 85mm f1.8 with the big MagLite and Cone at f8/30 second exposures.

I shot a Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon 85mm f1.8 @ f8 for 30-second exposures.

While there I also did the first of a series I had been thinking about using a “mosaic” approach to some macro subjects.  I had previously done some pano and mosaic shots of flowers but they were not really true macro (1:1 magnification).  But I had some owl feathers that I thought might be interesting subjects.  I selected and shot two of them, a very small body feather and a normal sized wing feather.

The big feather looks fascinating at its native size of 16”x40” but really does not look very special on a computer screen.  However the little one that was about 1¾ inches has, to me, fascinating detail when you click on it and enlarge it to full screen size.

Small owl body feather from the remains of a dead owl along the Black Mountain Rd.  This small 1.75 inch feather was shot with Canon 5D MkIII and Tamron 180mm macro lens and assembled from 5 frames.

Small owl body feather from the remains of a dead owl along the Black Mountain Rd. This small 1.75 inch feather was shot with Canon 5D MkII and Tamron 180mm macro lens and assembled from 5 frames.

Earlier in the week I was looking for locations to take the lighting class to demo these techniques on a car.  Ultimately I think the easiest places for students to get to are along the shore of Fiesta Island on a night SeaWorld is doing fireworks.  Also good would be along the San Diego River where I shot my Jaguar Smilodon for a previous post..

However this was a gorgeous afternoon and while driving around I saw some nice scenes in Presidio Park on the hill overlooking Old Town.

Afternoon light on a hill side at the San Diego Presidio.  Shot with Canon 5D MkII with Canon 17-40 mm f4L

Afternoon light on a hill side at the San Diego Presidio. Shot with Canon 5D MkII with Canon 17-40 mm f4L

Here too is a delightful little scene under the highway along the San Diego River.

Quiet pastoral scene under the highway along the San Diego River.  HDR shot with Canon 5D MkII and 17-40 mm f4L

Quiet pastoral scene under the highway along the San Diego River. HDR shot with Canon 5D MkII and 17-40 mm f4L

Then on Saturday Lee Peterson and I returned to the Transportation Museum in Campo to discuss the possibilities of doing an evening Painting With Light workshop.  This is such a visually enticing place and they were very open to us doing a night workshop so it could open up a host of new photo possibilities.  Of course… there we were… a feast for the eyes and cameras all around us just begging us to dig in… how could we not take the time to do some shooting?

Lee immediately dissappeared among the rows of old vehicles to be swallowed up by patterns, colors, the feel of these once powerful machines.  You can see his collection on http://www.photographyinparadise.com.  The first thing that caught my eye however, was an old lathe in the shadows of the machine shop.  It was covered in what looked like brass shavings from whatever someone had been making.  And the bright brass shavings against the steel of the lathe itself against the brick wall and old wood slat behind it was, well, it was irresistible.  And if ever there was a great subject for a painting with light approach this was it.

I wanted to give the impression of this old machine as if the viewer had stumbled on in back in the a corner in an old garage or machine shop.  I looked at several compositions, some a little more dynamic, but I really wanted the viewer to see and address the machine as its user would so shot it straight on.  And, exercising great restraint over an impulse to style the shot, I also did not re-arrange items but shot them just as the user had left them.

I thought it was fairly dark in the garage/mechanic shop where the lathe set, but it was bright enough with north light coming through a wall of very large windows even at f16 I could not shoot longer than about 1.5 seconds in order to keep the subject dark enough for the light to show up.  So it was time to get creative.  I wanted to use my new light wand but it wasn’t bright enough to overpower the natural ambient light so I chose the 6,000 lumen Cree and went for it.  Nor could I sweep the light onto the subject as I intended.  In order to not overexpose the lathe I had to resort to a LOT of single frames (41 to be exact) at fairly short exposures of about a second.  There was no time for light movement to paint in larger areas so they would have to be blended together in post.  Fortunately the Cree casts a very flat beam without much of a central hotspot.  This really should be done at night when the garage is dark but I was now on a mission and not to be dissuaded by a little extra light.

Each frame illuminated some small spot of the lathe.  So I shot it fairly methodically and assembled the frames in the same sequence.  I had also shot a base shot but decided I did not need it so just dove in to the assembly process.  Four hours later, this is what I was looking at…

An old lathe at the Transportation Museum in Campo, CA.  Shot with Canon 5D MkII and Canon 17-40mm f4L.  This shot was made with a Painting With Light approach from 41 separate exposures, each lighting a small area of the subject.  You can click on the image to enlarge it.

An old lathe at the Transportation Museum in Campo, CA. Shot with Canon 5D MkII and Canon 17-40mm f4L. This shot was made with a Painting With Light approach from 41 separate exposures, each lighting a small area of the subject. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

I am still amazed by the look of this approach.  It really is a photograph and no special editing trickery was used apart from assembling all of the little parts from layers in Photoshop.  Do click on it to see it full screen.

Following the lathe shot I wandered out into the yard and took a few more photographs but have not had time to process them.  Tomorrow, Sunday, I have run out of procrastination room so will have to do my taxes after breakfast.  Oh for joy… and I am EVER so pleased with how they are used too…

Oh Well, if I finish in time I may put together some of the other shots I took at the transportation museum.  Then Monday, it is back to class for seven more weeks of the semester.

 

 

 

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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