Dempsey X Darius Twin collaboration

Astrobandit delivers a flying kick

Location: Salton Sea, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 126 seconds. Model at F3.2, ISO 800, 6 seconds - lit w speedlite.

Three minds are better than one - this was the case on the collaborative efforts of myself, fellow Los Angeles based photographer Mike Dempsey and Astrobandit when we recently took a trip out to the beautiful wasteland that is - Salton Sea, CA.

Last Grasp

Location: Salton Sea, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 40 seconds. Model at F3.5, ISO 800, 8 seconds.

Click on the images above to take a trip over to Mike's website where you can check out some of his humorous photo and video work that will make you say - How'd he do that? 

Looking forward to collaborating again in the near future!

Nude Ascending a Staircase

Location: Salton Sea, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 91 seconds. Colors at F5.6, ISO 1250, 45 seconds.

I checked out this staircase during the day and it was sturdy enough to not crumble then - It seems as though it may at any moment.

Most of the buildings in this section of the Salton Sea are ragged signs of the past, decaying into the future.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Location: Potato chip rock - San Diego, CA / Settings: F22, ISO 100, 238 seconds

'This place is just as sketchy as it looks in the photos' - that was my initial thought upon first visit.

From the first time I laid eyes on this place through someone else's photo, I thought it looked familiar - anyone growing up with Shel Silverstein's poems and illustrations in their youth could never forget his book cover 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' - in fact, if you research the title, you can't help but find many tattoos of the iconic deceased writer/illustrator's work.

It always struck a chord with me due to it's clever, raw, precarious, humorous yet hopeful perspective - a rare balance to find in creative work!

If you think the 7 mile hike with an elevation gain of around 1700 ft would deter some crowds, think again - Astrobandit waited in line for a chance to shoot her image - it took about 20 minutes - lots of selfie-sticks :P

circus

We waited until dusk to shoot some blue-hour images and then hiked back in the dark. As you can see in this image, the rock really does just drop off into nothing.

If you do choose to make the trek out to potato chip rock - make sure to bring plenty of water, as many hiking websites will advise - the trail doesn't have much shade and would be difficult in the summer heat!

Campvibes at Giant Rock

Location: Giant Rock - Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light-art at F8, ISO 100, 538 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Enjoy the outdoors this weekend! 

For this shot I used the 'illuminated tent trick' - during a long-exposure, light the tent from within or just behind w a powerful light source to make the inner space glow - something to try out the next time you go camping. 

I used an LED light-pen prototype I've been working on for all the colors here.

Arch Rock, or Dead Duck?

Location: Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: F4.5, ISO 1600, 106 seconds

This is one of those night-photographers spots - I feel sorry for the casual camper that unsuspectingly chooses the place right by the entrance to arch rock trail, as there's always late-night hikers making the sound of footsteps passing by in the middle of the night.

I didn't have much of a concept for light-art when I first got here, but after looking at the rock - It began to look like a dead-duck from the classic nintendo game duck hunt.. The more I looked at it, the clearer it became.

A little orange light there, an X for the eye, a little green, some blue, and finally a bit of yellow for the feet. Ah yes - a dead duck indeed!

That's what light-art is all about - making beautiful landscapes into dead ducks.

 

Cherries on top

Location: Anza Borrego, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 91 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

As many of you may have noticed, I've been doing a lot of composite shots lately - the reasoning is simple - I want you to see the stars! Screw the trails, who cares about that? I want bright stars in the background! Galaxies, nebulas, constellations, meteors, I want them all crisp and clear! I didn't travel 3 hours by car to see dim skies!

A simple explanation of the technique I'm using is that I take 2 photos for every composite image you see, one for the light art, and another for the background. I don't move my camera from the tripod - I just take 2 for every one, making sure to re-focus from rather close to near infinity, it's basically a type of HDR for light-painting.. Which I think camera manufacturers are going to implement eventually, but for now it's a bit of camera-hack.

My method is to first find the most picturesque location, bearing in mind where the stars look best. To do this, I use my eyes first, then I confirm where the constellations are with an app I've recently acquired called 'Sky Guide' (iphone app) which uses your GPS to identify constellations.

After I've found my spot, and taken a high-ISO shot (around F2.8, ISO 3200 for 15 sec) - stars and environment should be pretty bright. Then I begin the light-art process - for this, my settings are around F8, ISO 100, for as many seconds as needed (use bulb mode!). If you've done this right, you should see decent light art and everything else should be rather dark. After you've got a decent take, re-focus for the stars, and reset your ISO to around 3200 (like before - during your initial test-shot). Get a bright and sharp star-shot then combine the two images in post.

With photoshop, start with the base light art, then put the star-shot on top and select 'lighten' on the top image to sandwich your two shots into one - presto! From Darius Twin to Starius Twin.  

starius twin

Alien iphone

Location: Giant Rock - Landers, CA / Settings: (Composite of 3 shots) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 182 seconds. UFO light-stencils at F5.6, ISO 1600, 30 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Out by Joshua Tree, CA and close to a strange architectural structure called the intregratron, there's a place called Giant Rock, home to (purportedly) the world's largest free-standing boulder.

Reading into this mysterious place will only yield even more mysterious results.

  1. Sacred Native American site - check.
  2. Former home of George Van Tassel - an aircraft mechanic for Douglas AircraftHughes Aircraftand Lockheed (Also a UFO convention organizer) - check.
  3. Site of a suspected WWII German Spy detonating himself while underneath it with dynamite - check.

In light of these connections, my idea for this place was to re-create what may have been George Van Tassel's vision while living under the rock - that an alien from from the planet Venus woke him up, invited him onto a space ship, then verbally and telepathically gave him a technique for rejuvenating the human body.

I used light-stencils for my UFO's and a step-ladder to give my alien some extra height - as the giant rock is seven stories tall!

 

Milk with your Coffee?

Location: Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 40 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

The desert is a strange and beautiful place. It's harsh with extreme conditions like heat, cold, strong winds and venomous animals.

But there's another side to the desert that is peaceful, magic and spiritual - a place of wonder where you can feel insignificant in the best way possible.

Dust Bowl Vision

Location: Anza Borrego Desert, CA

I don't know about you, but this image speaks to me about the current state of Southern California and what is already a serious situation about the lack of drinking water, and lack of decent solutions. 

It also makes me think of the dust bowl era in American 1930's.. Are we destined for another?

dust bowl

Battle Beasts

Location: Borrego Springs, CA / Settings: F8, ISO 100, 463 seconds

Out in the Borrego Springs desert, there are some incredible metal sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda.

Here's a sketch I did with these specific sculptures in mind, they were a bit larger than I had imagined!

battle sketch

Shots of Color

Location: Torrey Pines Beach - San Diego, CA / Settings: F6.3, ISO 100, 204 seconds

shots of color

I'm hoping that the light-pen tool I've been designing for the past few years is going to make light-art a bit more interesting.

For many years I've been using different LEDs for different colors - stopping the illustration to switch tools for every color in the dark - it's really annoying and does a good job at breaking my concentration.

So I've come up with a solution - a light-pen that can change through many colors with a click of your thumb. This (image above) was the first I created using the prototype - which is still very slowly being worked on - meeting by meeting, phase by phase. Not done yet, not even close.

I like to think of it like a rough gem - it looks like any old rock now, but with a little refining and polishing, it could be great! 

Innovation is a trying process, but in my mind's eye, it is a crystal clear vision. 

torrey pines coastline

A foggy coast looking south to La Jolla Shores in San Diego, CA.

United Skeletons

Mountain weather

Location: Mt. Wilson - Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F6.3, ISO 200, 141 seconds

Hobo Baggins is at it again - up in the clouds this time! He hikes with a goal firm in mind - to see the jewel of the day - a sunset.

At a height of 5,712 feet, (or 1741 meters) he is happy to catch the sun fading away beyond clouds in the distance as the city below prepares for night.

The adventures of Hobo Baggins - Volume I

Hobo Baggins sets off on the journey of his after-life without a penny to his name.

After scoring a ride with a lonesome trucker, Hobo Baggins gets dropped off on the wrong side of the tracks in an industrial section of Los Angeles. The trucker was kind enough to share a smoke and point him in the right direction. Hobo takes one last look back into the dark and begins a long walk towards the light.

downtown railroad

After following the tracks for hundreds of miles up the coast of California, Hobo arrives in Portland, Oregon in a much better state of mind.

portland tracks

Continuing his journey into the woods with a pair of red boots he picked up in Portland, Hobo Baggins is inspired and in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds him.

After months on the road, Hobo arrives in Ojai, CA on an olive orchard, transformed and enlightened by his travel experiences. 

Orange you glad I didn't draw a banana?

Location: Ojai, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 100, 91 second exposure

Took a 'pink moment' hike with some friends the other evening around the orchards of Ojai. On the way back we stopped for a bit to shoot some light paintings, the smell of citrus filled the air and I knew immediately what to draw. I've been trying to develop a new food gallery of light art.

arrow heart yoga

Here are my friends Melanie and Dan doing one of their own! They plan on opening a yoga studio in Ojai, it's called 'Arrow Heart Yoga' - thus the AHY.

Killer Cake

Location: Mt Pinos - Frazier Park, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 200, 153 second exposure

If driving into the mountains and hiking into the forest to freeze your ass off in the pale moonlight holding a machete and illustrating cake is your idea of a good time, then you are a prime candidate for light-painting photography! 

Just make sure to bring your long-underwear for that 38 degree 8800 ft altitude.

killer cake sketch

It always helps to sketch out the idea on paper before tackling it in real life. I was going to illustrate a regular cake, but making it a killer-cake just seemed like the right thing to do.