Night-Writer Lineage

Location: Los Angeles & Pine Mountain, CA

night-writer history lineage prototypes LED lightpainting photography DIY art building create

With the release of the 7th iteration of 'Night-Writer', I thought I'd give a bit of context as to where the design came from and where it's going.

It all started back in 2011, when my friend Dana Maltby (a.k.a. TCB) gave me a light-pen he made of duct-tape, 2 AA batteries, a push-button, and an LED light. You can take a look at some of the historical photos below to get an idea of what the first prototypes were like, and which images were made with what early versions of the LED tool:

A custom LED light may seem like a fairly mundane concept to most, but for someone with illustration chops it's like the difference between a surgeon using a steak-knife or a scalpel when operating. There are certain nuances to the design that make it better for drawing with than your average LED light. Think of it as an instrument!

Now let's take a closer look at each of these design iterations and I'll tell you some of the pros and cons of working with each tool, as well as how each version informed the next. You can click on each image and hover-over to read the story about each model, 

Here's a link to the current model of the Night-Writer (V.7), it can be purchased right here for a limited time.

I have hand-made every version of the LED tool (V.1 - V.7) and each is signed and dated on the interior. Here's to the next evolution, stay bright!

Flipping Out

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

See more in animation / licensing collection

See more in animation / licensing collection

It's good to try new things, so I brought a step-ladder with me on my most recent night mission during the last full moon.

The few extra steps gave me enough height to animate my red light-skeleton running up the walls ala Gene Kelly from 'Singing In The Rain'. 

I used a remote controlled color-changing 'LED Pod' to color the shadowed areas blue and a Night-Writer with red color-tip for the skeleton character. 

For these type of time and energy dependent projects it helps to have a well defined process and stick to it through the length of the shoot, otherwise the animation will never get done. You've got to find your groove.

Mine was roughly 3 seconds of blue light exposure from the 'LED-Pod', and then drawing out the skeleton while the full moon illuminated the background, each long exposure frame was about 150 seconds.

Here's a kinetic blend of the different drawings together:

kinetic LP

Here's a quick GoPro time-lapse of the process:

The next image was a special one for my Mother, it was Mother's Day after all.

Here's a 'Mama Bear and Cubs' walking along a fallen tree under the full moon.

Mama Bear

Thanks for reading and stay bright light fam!

Man On Fire

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

See more in the Animation / Licensing collection.

See more in the Animation / Licensing collection.

The other night I checked out a nearby spot that has a burned down section of the forest. A stark reminder of what can happen over the Summer when the weather is hot, dry, and windy.

This must have happened a handful of years back, you can see smaller growth making a comeback but it could be many more years until we see trees here again.

burned forest

Here's a blend I did of all the frames in the animation above so you can see the frame by frames. The steps are a little wonky, but hey - he's on fire! Fire effect produced with red El Tape.

stack

The next light-art challenge is a different type of photo-merge. This one is done in-camera during a long-exposure. It's essentially a double exposure using the lens-cap and two tripods. 

Light-painters call it the 'Lens-cap Trick'.

The best way to accomplish this 'Lens-cap Trick' yourself is to have two tripods with the same quick-release plate, that way you can quickly set up different positions and remove the camera and set it up easily on another, just remember to cap your lens while you move the camera from one location to the next and re-adjust your focus each time.

If you're in the market for a killer tripod that won't break the bank, check out this lightweight and ridiculously strong Pro-series 'Dolica' Carbon Fiber Tripod for about $100. I've been using the same model for the past year or so and I am thinking of getting another soon - for this price it can't really be beat! Other carbon fiber tripods can cost 5x the price!

Back to the 'Lens-cap Trick', first set up the tripods in two different locations, I chose one up close to a fireplace (close focus) and another further away from the camera to draw the heart (long focus).

The idea is to line up the two separate compositions so that they are relatively seamless and look like one surreal photograph. It requires getting the exposure accurate and in focus for both composites - this takes a bit of trial and error to get just right - you have to remember the focal length for each exposure.

I recommend getting a good shot of the plate first, then trying the light-art until it's lined-up correctly separately, after these are both dialed in, then go for the make of both. Here are my practice shots, I try expose a little darker so that the blend works out:

stove

Sometimes it's the simple things that are most difficult! This heart took quite a few tries to get just right, but now I have a sweet burning heart .gif:

heart on fire

Here is my end result:

liketolight_7640_DT.jpg

After the make, I wanted to try another more ambitious shot where I set the tripod up outside in my backyard by an interesting V-shaped tree.

For the image below it was more like 3 exposures - First I exposed the stove (lit w bare Night-Writer), then I capped the lens and started a small fire in the stove. Next, I took the lens cap off to expose the flames (2nd exposure) and capped it after the fire had burned a bit. Lastly, I moved the camera to the outside where I refocused and exposed for the 3rd time toward the 'V-shaped' tree in my backyard and drew in the light-skeleton with a clear-tipped Night-Writer

Give it a try the next time you're in the right place for it!

The 'Lens-cap Trick' is one of the more advanced techniques for light-art and takes a bit longer to master than almost any other kind of shot, so please be patient and give yourself plenty of time to try and fail... If you don't give up, you will eventually succeed. Stay Bright!

Lighthouse in the Pines

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

Since my last blog post, Astrobandit and I have become a homeowners. It's been a wild process but I will be happy to be doing my work in the mountains about an hour and half drive from my previous residence in Los Angeles, CA.

At around 5000ft elevation and hardly any light-pollution, this place is ideal for night-photography. I hope to host fellow light-artists if they wish to visit in the future - perhaps do some workshops.. I see many collaborations happening in and around this house!

pano

Let's take a quick trip inside for a moment, here is the loft-space where my cat likes to tempt fate.

Yes, that is a disco ball hanging from the ceiling.. I've only pointed a laser at it once.

A special feature of the house sometimes happens around 7:30am, if there are no clouds and the sun is out during the right time of year, the disco ball lights up for a few minutes after sunrise, it only happens when the light hits just right! 

disco sucks

This area of California sits on an intersection of sorts between two mountain ranges - the Coast Ranges (West) and the Sierra Nevadas (East), North is the Central Valley of CA and South, down several thousand feet, is the city of Los Angeles.

One of my favorite things to do recently is explore the surrounding areas, most of which are accessible by ridge routes that connect winding mountain roads through places like Ojai, Carrizo Plains, and around Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Here (below) are some crows flying high above Carrizo Plains National Monument a few days ago.

crows

Here (below) is a hillside full of small yellow wildflowers, I added in some other light-flowers with my commentary on heredity. 

Of course I take my trusty Night-Writer along on each of these road-trips..

Night-Writer

So I can draw philosophical things, like 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'.

Since the heavy rains in March I wanted to try and venture into and shoot the usually dry lake in Carrizo Plains - Soda Lake. This was not a good idea because the crusty surface of the lake quickly gave way to a muck the consistency of baby food.. Basically quicksand, as you can see in this video:

I was content with a sidelines view of the sunset instead.

Soda Lake

After changing my initial goal of reflecting light-art on the water, I began writing a phrase I've found truth in over the years. My interpretation of this phrase is somewhat similar to Karma, sow light! 

You Reap What You Sow

You Reap What You Sow

Superbloom 2017

Location: Borrego Springs / Lake Elsinore, CA

I feel like I've been hibernating for a bit.. But all that's about to change with Spring in the air! Here's a quick animated loop I made with the most recent version of my Night-Writer prototype at Walker Canyon nearby Lake Elsinore.

You can see these flowers off the side of the 15 freeway and they make the hills look like they were covered with Cheetos from a distance. Closer up, they are actually vast fields of wild California Poppies and a very popular place to visit for photographers.

The beauty of this bloom is a sight to behold, supposedly the best in over a decade.

All these flower fields in bloom gave me an idea for a light-drawing, so I did this quick sketch and have been thinking of it for a little bit. It seemed appropriate.

It took a few tries to get right, there was a whole process of set lighting for the actual creation, I'll go over the whole process below the image:

First, I used a remote triggered pod-light to cast red up from the base of the flowers around my soon to be light-drawing for about 10 seconds. Then, I highlighted the area in front of the flowers and up the hill from the left and right side (off frame) w a high-powered white light. After this, I began drawing in my fire-flower with an un-filtered Night-Writer for the starry eyes and color-filtered Night-Writer for the flower itself switching colors from yellow to red and then green. Lastly, I used red EL Wire for the fireball.

Out in the desert of Borrego Springs, we visited Coyote Canyon and Henderson Canyon. So many varieties of bright colorful flowers in the normally reddish brown areas.

For the next light-drawing, I decided to focus some energy on my 'Insects' series. Here's a popular (or un-popular) and spring-appropriate character, the Mighty Grasshopper.

The last image I will leave you with was made with a weird color-wheel device I created over the weekend with some color-filters and a skateboard bearing.

The tool was kind of difficult to work with, but it functioned well enough to draw this 'High Flower' waving goodnight.

Keep the Beat

Location: J.A. Studio - Los Angeles, CA

Here is an idea that took a little while to coordinate and a long while to actually accomplish. The idea is always the easy part! Special thanks to Joey for helping set this up and borrowing his camera to get a second angle (below).

These are the sorts of projects where it helps to have a light designed for drawing! Animation is one of the main reasons I started making my Night-Writer product. After the 20th frame, no matter how much experience you have in animating, the mind and body begin to get fatigued. Muscles begin to cramp and it makes finishing the project more difficult to achieve. Luckily a hand cramp is not something I have at this point, thanks to the ergonomic design of my Night-Writer tool.

 So, how does one animate this sort of thing?

Step one for me is usually sketching out some expressive stick-figures for each frame in the animation. It doesn't have to look pretty, but the movements have to appear natural:

Doing this type of work is almost identical to drawing a flip-book. I will say it's a little tougher with light because you can't see what you've illustrated and it has to be life-sized in order to interact with life-sized props. 

For stationary animations it's easier in the sense that we're not moving around the camera each frame or moving around the character. To do more dynamic animations like on my 'licensing page', I often use markers to move each piece of the scene one step at a time, sometimes its just the character that moves, other times it's both the character and the camera moving for every frame.

What song do you think this skeleton is drumming to? 

Here's a full time-lapse of the drawing process:

Down the Rabbit Hole

Location: Big Sur, CA

After a long drive out of city, through hours of vacant roads in the farm country of the central valley and some curvy roads through wine country in the hills, we made our way to the coast of central California.

There were several landslides and road closures along Highway 1 North so the scenic route was not an option, our trip was scenic anyways:

Here I am spelling it out at Bixby Bridge with a new color-tip design that looks like a crystal (in gallery above).

Tucked away in the heart of the California coastline, Big Sur has some of the darker skies in the country and you can see bright stars at night. During a new moon, it was ideal astrophotography conditions. It was difficult to pick out constellations you could see so many in the sky at once.

Looking North up the rocky coastline:

McWay Light Posse:

The sky was so dark, clear and calm that stars made reflections on the ocean. Here Sirius is backlighting an agave blossom:

Last image I'll leave you with is one of 'Sea and Space'. See more posts about Big Sur, CA by clicking this link.

Joshua Tree at Night

Location: Joshua Tree National Park - Joshua Tree, CA

During this time of year in Joshua Tree the temperatures can drop dramatically at night, the higher elevation (around 2700 ft) certainly adds to this effect. It can be 60 degrees during the day and 30 degrees once the sun goes down, make sure you pack a good jacket and layer-up if you plan to visit. 

For the photograph above 'Stand Tall', I used a new light tool I made especially for taller creations. For scale, the left skeleton is about 6 feet tall and the right one is about nine to ten feet tall. I used an old antenna, an LED and single wire to create an extendable light source I could draw with. Later I wrapped it in clear fishing line for a more diffused look:

Sunrise and sunsets create vibrant transitional colors in the sky, and at night the backdrop of space itself appears bright and unobstructed by city lights in the distance. 

The occasional passing car lights define narrow paths cut through the park, highlighting mounds of giant boulders.

setting up the shootout

Here I am setting up the next shot, I wanted a western shootout look with one character in the foreground and another far off in the background eating lead.

I was hoping to get a bit of that fading sunset color in the shot.

You can get a feel for about how much time went by taking a look at the length of the star trails. The 'Midnight Showdown' scene (below) took 370 seconds:

Later that night we headed to a really cool place called Cactus Moon Retreat, and I drew a cactus and moon in one of my favorite rooms in the property using my newly designed jumbo Night-Writer tips.

cactus moon

Here's a sneak peak at what some new modular (and larger) color-tips look like up close, I plan on making these available soon but need to fix a few minor things about the way they clasp together first.

Here's a short GoPro video I captured while trying to create the images in this post, hopefully it gives you a good idea of what making light-drawings is all about.

We'll finish this post with the 'Devil you Know', made with a red modular tip and a really bright white LED to create some flares over the eyes.

Click Here for more articles on Joshua Tree, CA.

 

LP Friends

Location: Worldwide

LP Trio

The quote by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" can be applied to light-painting as an art form.

This year (2017) marks the 10th year I've been at it, and I've been keeping track of everyone involved in its progression throughout the years like any true fan would.

I have some favorite photographers I'd like to introduce you to in this post, many of which I've had the pleasure of meeting first hand and collaborating with, I've stayed on some of their couches in foreign lands, I've gotten lost down dirt roads in the middle of nowhere with two flat tires and low on gasoline, I've spent time and broken bread with these people having adventures I'll never forget. Here's hoping for many more adventures as the new year begins. 

This list is by no means comprehensive, and I may add to it over time, but this post will give you a good idea of what else is out there in terms of different talents & styles in the field, and I'll narrate for you.

Dana Maltby (aka TCB - Twin Cities Brightest) // USA

Dana from Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota was one of the first long exposure artists I followed from early days, his long exposure work hits you in a wild alternate-reality sort of way. Some of my favorites from him include innovative techniques he came up with including lens-swapping during the exposure, kaleidoscopic tripod appendages,  and spiro-graphing lights inside extensive drainage tunnels underneath the city.

You can follow his work here: WebsiteInstagram / Flickr / Vimeo

Pala Teth // Belgium

Pala Teth, from Liege, Belgium has a distinctive style often using secondary colors (and fireworks) to achieve directed and explosive lighting effects. His work is thoughtful and well executed, there is a clear vision to each scene, a natural story-teller.

You can follow his work here: Instagram / Flickr / 500px

Janne Parviainen (aka JannePaint) // Finland

Janne is already a talented painter, you can see this skill shine through in his light-art style.

Part of Janne's work is characterized by its topographical appearance. In addition to his outdoor images, Janne creates entire worlds inside his dark studio using forced perspective, white chalk lines and other ingenious optical tricks.

Follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / 500px / Flickr

Xaio Yang (aka Inhiu) // China

Xiao Yang is an urban explorer from Beijing, she travels extensively and captures a sci-fi like reality of nocturnal landscapes and forgotten architecture.

Much of her work is with massive buildings, often juxtaposing a human being for a sense of scale.  

You can follow her work here: Instagram / Facebook / Flickr

Julien Breton (aka Kaalam) // France

Julien is a Calligraphy artist that has used light-painting to take his skills to the streets and above the city at night. His control of the light is what impresses me most along with incorporating his work well within and around 3D spaces. 

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook

Dennis Calvert // USA

Dennis is a light-painting artist from Alabama, I'm a big fan of his super-hero (or anti-hero) images with light-art. You can tell his work by the silhouetted subject with the light usually featured as a source of power bursting out of the main character.

If his work was a story, it would probably be a time traveling tale.

You can follow his work here: WebsiteInstagramFacebook / Flickr 

 

Alfredo Alvarez (aka Children of Darklight) // Spain

Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 12.47.18 PM.png

Alfredo (or Frodo as his friends call him) is a Spanish light-artist from Oviedo in the Asturias region.

His most recent work is massive, organizing many light-painters together for one large scale installation. Recently I had the pleasure of working with him in Longhushan, China where we installed a massive light-painting inside an ancient Taoist temple after he and his crew constructed a ten meter tall structure to get just the right perspective. 

 

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Flickr / Facebook

Roy Wang // China

Roy Wang

Roy Wang, from Beijing is a talented illustrator and friend I met in Shanghai, he organized our group of international artists while we were in Longhushan.

After seeing him light-paint a Chinese Dragon perfectly two times in a row, I could see that Roy could draw just about anything he wanted to with light. 

You can follow his work here: Instagram / Facebook 

Vincent Delevaux (aka Diliz) // France

Vincent

Diliz is a master of expression with light, his creations seem alive, like they have a mind of their own. 

His style is defined by a confident hand and a clear artistic vision with his often one line light-marks. 

You can follow his work here: Flickr / Website / Youtube / Facebook

Eric Pare & Kim Henry // Canada

I first met Eric & Kim while I was shin-deep in the Los Angeles River. We had planned via email or fb chat to light-paint in the LA river that night around the 6th st bridge, the last image in the gallery below is our first collaboration. I've since met he and Kim a handful of times and it's always wonderful to see them and inspiring to see their progression.

Eric Pare has a really cool project that involves bullet-time light-painting - utilizing 84 cameras to create a wild reality. He is also a pioneer of 'tube light-painting' - using plastic tubes with lights projected into the tube to create a diffused and translucent light source that silhouettes his subjects. His model and professional dancer Kim Henry adds a sense of scale, balance and drama into each highly cinematic photograph.

Astrobandit and I once took a roadtrip to the Southwest and ended up meeting Eric and Kim in Moab, Utah. It was a strange and fun chance meeting, neither he nor I had planned to be in the same area at the same time. We collaborated again, at a place called Dead Horse Point - seen in the 'Magic Carpet' image below. 

You can follow his work here: Instagram / Facebook / 500px / Website

Sam Heuzé (aka MASS) // France

Mass has a fluid and controlled hand that comes through strong in his art with a calligraphy focus. 

His layered light-work tells a story through movement. Seeing him create live is a bit like watching someone practice martial arts, there are aggressive swipes, steps, and jabs to each shape. 

You can follow his work here: WebsiteInstagram / Facebook / Youtube 

Sergey Chukos // Russia

Sergey, from Moscow is the founder of Light Painting World Alliance, an organization that puts on light-art galleries, workshops, lectures, and meetings worldwide through collaboration with host cities. The artist database on lpwalliance.com features light-painting photographers around the world and is a great resource for finding light-artists around the globe. 

Over the past 3 years LPWA has organized events in France, Spain, Germany, China, and USA.

You can follow his work here: Instagram / Facebook / Website / Flickr

 

Patrick Rochon // Canada

Patrick's style is defined by his special attention to detail.

The light textures, color, clarity, and movement in his work appear polished and professional. He's worked with a long list of high-profile clients and has innovated with products like his lite-blade series.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Vimeo

Denis Smith (aka The Ball of Light) // Australia

Denis Smith's positive energy is infectious, I first got to meet him in Germany during Photokina, and we had a chance to collaborate on an image together while we were there. I'm looking forward to our next collaboration, whenever that will be I'm sure it will be epic! 

Denis's work is all about 'The Ball of Light' - where it goes, what it does, how it's feeling at the moment, he tells a story through exploration.

In addition to his photography, Denis also teaches workshops and does videos that educate the viewer and his participants. He also sells his own light-tools on the shop section of his website.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook

Jason Page // USA

Florida based light-artist Jason Page runs an in-depth website called lightpaintingphotography.com with its own database of other talented light-artists along with a historical section, monthly contests, and a regularly updated blog.

Jason's light-work involves innovative approaches to layered light-stenciling and ghostly textured light characters along the coasts and deep in the forests.

In addition to his light-art and informative website, Jason also invented a useful set of color-filtered light-extensions and textured elements called 'Light Painting Brushes' which you can purchase via his online shop

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Shop

Hugo Baptista (aka Oddball Graphics) // Netherlands

Hugo's work with light-painting is methodical, like a scientist. First comes the idea, that's the easy part. The difficult part is the execution of it over time and multiple efforts. Often after tinkering with an idea for a long time, Hugo will make a breakthrough. I admire his focus and dedication to seeing an idea all the way through despite the obstacles along the way!

A few years ago we had the chance to collaborate on an idea Hugo had to try and 'crowd-source bullet-time light-painting'. You can read an interview about it here. Or just watch the video! He got different photographers together (with different cameras) and had them shoot tons of photos over three hours to achieve the matrix-like video effect.

In 2016 we collaborated in the Netherlands, resulting in the last image in the gallery below. No editing there, the effects are done in-camera.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Flickr

Brian Hart // USA

Brian's work bears the mark of several arts - illustration, design, and mosaic styles can all be found in his images. He has big ideas that are built piece by piece over time.

In addition to his photo-art, Brian may have the world's largest collection of 'VR explorable banana-peels spotted in the wild'.

You can follow his work here: Instagram / Facebook / Website

Trevor Williams (aka Tdub & Fiz-iks) // Japan

Trevor's work can be characterized by his innovations through countless experiments. Tdub uses models, constructs massive light-domes, produces light-stencils, and sets fire to steel-wool to produce his eye-catching imagery.

We once collaborated on an animated project involving light-stenciled Pac-Man-esque characters invading the home of an unsuspecting tv-watcher.

Currently, Trevor focuses on more journalistic imagery, but you can see his skill as a light-artist shine through in his low-light work.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram /  Facebook / Youtube

Tig Tab // Australia

Tig Tab's work is mainly about her detailed and layered light-stencils that she takes to the underground tunnels of Melbourne. An eye for composition, casted light and texture help define her unique style.

You can follow her work here: Facebook / Website / Flickr

Tim Gamble (aka Fade to Black) // UK

Tim Gamble uses silhouettes, lens capping, lasers and camera rotations to achieve movie-poster like special effects in-camera. 

You can follow his work here: Flickr / Facebook / Instagram

Hannu Huhtamo // Finland

Hannu's work is sculptural in nature, he creates large plant-like installations in buildings, forests, or snowy locations.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Flickr

Dan Whitaker // UK

I've met up with Dan a few times now and it's always a pleasure to see him, the last image in the gallery below is a fun collaboration of ours. One of my light-skeletons surfing the flags of our countries in front of the Hollywood sign.

Dan's style is colorful and explorative, his images give the viewer a vibrant place to follow his character deeper into a giant maze of light.

You can follow his work here: InstagramFlickr

Troy Paiva (aka Lost America) // USA

Lost America's style is defined by what he photographs, mainly forgotten relics of America in it's prime, now coated with a time-earned patina, and his color-filtered lighting under a full moon in the desert.

Troy's work has an eerie but familiar quality to it, much like a Stephen King novel. In fact his work was used for a few of Stephen King's books ('Mile 81' and 'From a Buick 8') and that makes perfect sense to me. It seems like there's always something lurking beneath the surface or hiding around the corners to his images. In terms of the technical, Troy is a pro w exposure time and surface lighting, many have mimicked but few have got it down as well as the master himself.

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Flickr

Jeremy Jackson (aka Tacky Shack) // USA

I don't know where to begin with Tacky Shack's work over the years, he throws everything into his light-paintings but the kitchen sink.. And then the kitchen sink! Fireworks, lasers, and strange experiments are ever-present in Jeremy's light-style.

Sometimes I can't tell if what I'm looking at is an experiment or if there was artistic intent, then out of nowhere he hits a grand slam and it's way out of the ballpark. 

You can follow his work here: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Flickr

Winter Redwoods

Location: Humboldt County, CA - Prairie Creek Redwoods and Avenue of the Giants

Here we are in the freezing Redwoods of the Northernmost coastal areas of California. A place that looks like time was forgotten and Giants remain. Indeed, these trees have been on Earth for around 240 million years.

My personal (probably incorrect) theory is that this was once a part of Pangea hundreds of millions of years ago and most of it broke apart and collapsed into the ocean on part of the Juan De Fuca Plate leaving a tiny portion that remains on the coast of the North American tectonic plate. 

It's fun to think of Dinosaurs once roaming between these trees, but it's another thing to draw them doing it frame by frame in 34 degree weather with a Night-Writer (+ yellow-tip) in the dark.

I sketched this animation frame by frame (below) to make sure the movement was accurate, a triceratops light-fossil is a complicated character, here it is simplified:

sketchy at best

The first thing you have to know about this area is that it's fairly remote and a bit difficult to get to (especially if coming from Los Angeles like us!), be prepared for many hours of windy roads on the 101 past San Francisco, CA.

During this time of year it typically gets cold at night and can be rainy, watch out for black ice on the curvy roads deep in the forest, we tried not to drive on these roads too late into the night.

Our stops along the way up were: Santa Rosa, Willits, Trinidad, Klamath, then we came down the coast visiting Fort Bragg, Tomales Bay, and lastly Big Sur.

 Most light-painting sessions occurred just after sunset and until 9pm, after that it got a bit frosty.

ice cold

Welcome to Winter!

I drew a 'Lost Rudolph' with his nose so bright on an old bridge off the 101 in an area called 'Lost Man Creek'. I like how he looks a little confused here.. This area was pitch black at night, a bit spooky also.

Looks like we've got a hairy situation on our hands here, 'Bigfoot'!

For this image (above) I experimented with a new homemade Night-Writer tip made of cut, sanded, and glued plastic pieces.

I like the texture it added to my bigfoot:

I can't stress the importance enough of scouting a location first before it becomes too dark in the forest.

At night it's difficult to see anything more than 20 feet ahead of you. For the image below I was reaching around in the dark a bit.

Here are some of my 'light-skeletons' hanging around this fallen giant in the night, we'll call them the 'Forest Spirits'.

Looking further into the forest, I had an idea to topographically map the depth of the trees with a high-powered laser, the result is almost exactly as I envisioned, pretty wild!

Here is what 'Laser Vision' looks like.

That will sum up our adventure for now, here's a smiley face for you - Happy Holidays! 

Click Here for more articles about The Redwoods.

smiley

Valley of Fire gets Lit

Location: Valley of Fire State Park - Moapa Valley, NV

In one door and out the other.

These 'cabins' (above) were built for travelers in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program made in response to the Great Depression under Franklin D Roosevelt as part of the New Deal.

Here we are at Valley of Fire (VOF) State Park in Moapa Valley, NV. It's blue hour (above) and I'm thinking of where to light-paint for the night.

I took this photo (above) during a Supermoon, just as the park rangers stopped by and told us to leave this section of the park because it closes at sunset.. I hate it when parks close at sunset.

toast people

During the day, you can walk through some of the hiking paths inside the park and see many signs of pre-history chiseled into the rock like these petroglyphs above. 

I'm not sure what this one means (above) but here's my interpretation - the toast-people are allies.

round rocks

You'll see some unusual rock formations throughout the park, everything is made of sandstone and can be easily eroded with wind, water, and other forces of nature.

This results in psychedelic swirling colors of red, yellow, orange, black, pink, and white rock. The circular stones (above) were about the size of walnuts, you could see they've been formed over a very long time. 

This looked like a fitting circle for a vanity shot of my Night-Writer. Those colors rock (*ba-dum-tss).

Light-skeletons 'In the House' - 243 second exposure / F 7.1 / ISO 160

Under a bright full moon I used the darkest shadows in and around the house to create some color contrasts with my skeletons in the Cabins.

'Capturing a Light-Fossil' - 547 second exposure / F9 / ISO 160

This is at a spot called 'The Beehives', it's toward an entrance of the park and was being well lit by the Supermoon above. Climbing around on those rocks was fun.

'Bee Yourself' - 547 second exposure / F8 / ISO 160

Of course I couldn't resist putting a Bee on guard of one of the hive-looking rock formations. Interestingly, the exposure time is exactly the same as the previous image.

'Dinosaur Island' - 328 second exposure / F9 / ISO 160

This lonesome rock looked like a good place for my lonesome Light-Fossil.

Same place as the prior two images, the Beehive rocks were my favorite night-spot on this particular trip.

Winter in Death Valley

Location: Death Valley, CA

The animation above was shot under a recent Supermoon on Racetrack Playa inside Death Valley National Park, you can make out my shadow rotating throughout the frames as the camera pans right under the brighter-than-usual full moon's light.

Make no mistake, getting out to this spot is a mission - 26 miles of narrow jaw-chattering washboard roads, a few stray boulders, and sharp volcanic rocks will definitely give you a run for your money if you don't have the right tires on your vehicle. 

The last time I was out here was for another Supermoon in 2012.

Winter in Death Valley is great for night-photographers due to it getting dark so early and the relatively mild temperatures. It's nice during the day and it gets a bit cold at night, if you're prepared for it, it can be a lot of fun.

The national park is vast (covering over 5200 sq miles!) and offers a variety of desert landscapes. It has a bit of a micro-climate effect going on in certain parts of the park - for instance, the racetrack playa was 37 degrees at night while the area around stovepipe wells was 65 degrees. Big difference!

Let's talk locations, this image above 'Light Widow II' was shot around Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at around 280 feet below Sea Level.

When it gets windy here, you get salt in your hair, you get salt everywhere!

Badwater Basin at night lights up with stars, here I used a Vixen Polarie Star-tracker to capture the Galaxy and composite my light-painting 'Lemur Demeanor' (above). If you look at the image larger by clicking on it, you can see the meteor I caught in the middle of the Milky Way toward the top - Lucky!

Another killer spot in the park is the Mesquite Dunes, there are a few good dunes around the park but this one looks great during sunrise if you manage to wake up for it. Bring a jacket bc this place is freezing cold before the sun rises. This 'Smile' (above) sums up my feeling of being out there at that moment.

I got to add a yellow 'Triceratops on the Dunes' to my Light-Fossils series before the sun rose, casting red and blue light from the sides during the 213 second exposure made the dunes look extra wild.

Flash forward to the night and I got some 'Buzzards' to rest on a dried out Mesquite tree around a bloody carcass using my Night-Writer LED tool. 

Almost anywhere within the park is interesting if you're willing to walk out to get to it. Be advised that distance in the park is more than meets the eye - areas that look just 100 yards away can actually be a few miles or more in some cases, bring water, a hat, and maybe a compass if you decide to trek way out there!

Here a 'Green Galimimus' walks along cracked earth under the backlight of our Galaxy, drawn with Night-Writer plus some blue and green color-tips.

Here I am goofing around during the day (thanks Astrobandit for the snap) it was around 80 degrees in the picture (below). You can see what I mean about vast distances in the park.

why did the light-painter cross the road

This road was like many others in the park, when you're here it's good to know where the few gas stations are - Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek, your nearest fuel could be a hundred miles away at any given moment in your travels here.

Next location on the list is Zabriskie Point - a strange viewpoint where the land transforms into a psychedelic vision, especially at sunset!

I wrote my twin-brother Ross's name here during blue hour.

From here out I'm offering light-writing services to anyone willing to pay me $100 for a high-res digital download of a custom-made (10 characters or less) light-painting at an interesting location along my travels. Need a unique gift with a personal touch? Say it with light!

Another spot along the road yields an interesting view of a small rock formation juxtaposed with the Milky Way. Here is where I created 'Ibex' for my 'Animals' series.

The panorama above is 'Ubehebe Crater' it's a volcanic crater that's about a half mile across and 500 feet deep, this is under a supermoon and the light is coming from almost directly above. If you look closely you can make out some stars.

The last image I'll leave you with is 'Star Stinger III' in my growing 'Insects' series.

Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California is one of the most Zen places I've visited, it feels like a blank canvas - perfect for light-painting!

For more info on Death Valley, CA check out the park's website.

Pablo App

Locations: Los Angeles, CA | Berlin, Germany | Death Valley, CA

Here's an image I shot in Death Valley, CA at the Mesquite Dunes with a new long exposure video App called PABLO available for iPhone OS now via this LINK (Shot on iPhone 6 using a tripod).

The main point of this App is the process, it records the movement of your light live in-camera - pretty neat!

PABLO App is simple and user friendly - it works best w a tripod - tap the camera icon to get started and tap the red button to start recording. Tap the red button again and the video is over. Make sure to save & title your work, or delete if it's no good and share at your convenience!

I wasn't very good at the first few exposures with the App, one thing to note is you're definitely going to want a nice diffused light because it's easy to blow out such a tiny sensor with brighter torches (see below for example of blown out light). I did this skeleton in an abandoned hospital in Berlin - yes, it was creepy!

You can see how the App records casted light and directed light (video is sped up a bit).

Here's a quick one of the President Elect.. I used a Night-Writer w purple tip for this one but I think it was a bit too close for comfort so the light was a little bright in spots.

The last video I'll share is a quick one - a simple phrase that is all the rage right now. Now give this App a try tonight and see what you can come up with. 

Try some light-painting with your family over the holidays :)

China

Location: Longhushan, China

'Tiger & Dragon' (above) is the result of a large collaboration with a team of international artists at one of many ancient temples in Longhushan - Jiangxi Province, China. 

Before getting into our story, let's introduce the cast: Sergey (Head of LPWA from Moscow, Russia), Lichtfactor (German LP collective), Alfredo (Children of Darklight - Spain), Mass (LP art from France), Sfhir (Multi-media artist from Madrid, Spain), Roy Wang (LP Artist from Beijing, China), Diliz (France), Ivan (Spain), Nacho (Spain), Edu (Spain), Ramon (Spain), and of course my Fiance Astrobandit (USA).

Many sleepless nights in the rain to accomplish this special long exposure photograph (above). A 10 meter tall platform was built just to get this angle.

Our story starts in Shanghai where we all flew in from our home countries of Russia, Germany, USA, France, Spain and China. All of us took a bullet train 3 hours South to Longhushan only to be greeted with a large Typhoon for the next four days.

We were hoping to take some photos at night but sometimes the environment does not cooperate!

typhoon

Here is our light-painting group scouting the location with umbrellas and rain boots on. We're all here for a massive LPWA collaboration (Light Painting World Alliance) to be done in a few nights, if the weather allows it!

Of course I took my trusty Night-Writer along for the journey, I rarely leave home without it these days. It got wet quite a bit during my time in China, but functioned well in most trying of circumstances.

It wasn't like the rain in the West that I was used to, the humidity was high all the time, as was the temperature - I wore tank tops and shorts most of the time in China.

Here is Sergey (below), the main man behind LPWA (Light Painting World Alliance) - standing in about a half inch of water inside the ancient temple walls.

The purpose of our trip was a 2 part operation, the first was a large light painting photo exhibition and presentation in the city of Longhushan (see gallery below), and the second was to create an animation and large scale photo collaboration that would represent the location.

Longhushan literally translates to 'Dragon (&) Tiger Mountain', it's the birthplace of Taoism in China and you can feel this location has a rich history by walking around in it.

Below you can see the animation our international team made over the course of two nights:

For me, it was the similarities and differences in both geology and culture that made this place interesting, the ancient temples and pathways gave a feel of the past that was also connected to the present.

Yin and Yang was the most powerful and prolific symbol we encountered during our trip, the group would see it everywhere as a constant reminder of balance, mostly between chaos and order for us.

Somehow everything came together at the last possible moment every step of the way during our journey, it was intense and inspiring.

I like this image of Astrobandit that I shot in the ancient city inside the middle of the national park, it candidly captures what it was like to be there at that moment.

I think most of the natives were shocked to see a blonde-haired person, it was as if they had seen a unicorn.

Now let's zoom in to those Fu Dogs outside that temple (above). These were made of stone and inside the mouths of these statues were orbs of stone that you could not remove. Imagine the craftsmanship! 

Here my friend (and killer artist) Mass tries to remove one of the stones, not possible.

Here are some of my favorite phone images (shot by myself and others from the trip) in a massive gallery below. 

It was a shared experience I won't forget and I made some great friends along the way. It's hard to explain what this kind of traveling means to me - it speaks to an understanding of life itself.

During most of the trip the underlying theme was simple - NO SLEEP. Here we are after dinner, most of us had not slept in 48 hours, the bags under our eyes doubled and tripled:

Even though I barely managed to sleep, there were some great images I was able to capture in China, here are my favorites below:

Title: Temple of Light / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Temple of T Rex / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Chinese Nessie / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Shanghai / Location: Shanghai, China / View large + print options

Along with the images, I got some animations along one of the hikes in the national park of Longhushan.

'Coffin Rider' (below) tells a story about the historical and precarious cultural practice of wrapping the dead in bamboo coffins and placing them inside the small naturally occurring caves within the mountain.

For my story I wanted to show one of the mountain inhabitants breaking out for a midnight joyride on a piece of the coffin and riding it like a skateboard down the handrail and along the hiking path. I thought this would be a good demonstration of balance, it made sense to me with all the Yin & Yang symbols we had seen around this location:

Some say Shiny Bones is still sliding that rail to this day.. Stay bright light-friends!

Election Day

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Hey Americans, a quick reminder to get out there and vote today. Regardless of who you vote for, it's the part of a democratic process that matters most and you'd be foolish to sit this one out.

My personal opinion is that the state of the country is a complicated picture to try and focus on, it's made up of so many moving parts that a gauge on what the American people think in a general way is almost impossible to achieve.

Some want to break it, some want to try and fix it, some want to protect their assault rifles, some want to protect their children, some want to side with their religion, some want to side with their partners, some want a wall, some want a path to citizenship, some want to care more for the environment and green technologies, some care more about the oil business and their extensive subsidiaries. It depends on who you ask and what their stake in it is.

Personally, I side w Robert De Niro:

Welcome to Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

Here we are at Teufelsberg in Berlin, Germany on top of the only hill around for miles (or km if you're in Germany) it's not a natural hill, it's man-made from the the rubble and bombed buildings of WWII. There are a handful of old NSA spy towers that were abandoned after the cold war and that's where my teleporting skeleton zaps itself to the next destination.

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Up here in the towers you'll find a great spot to watch the sunset, perhaps drink a beer, see some interesting graffiti, and whistle a tune in the old towers that look like giant golf balls.

NSA Towers

If you want a killer sound system to listen to music while you're up there, a small bluetooth speaker like the one we brought will suffice - these massive interior spaces project sound like crazy when you go inside them. 

One of the coolest parts to Berlin, in my opinion, were all the abandoned buildings to explore - radio towers, water parks, hospitals, etc. I wish I had more time, I left feeling like I had only scratched the surface.

Some of the places were generally intact - the brick held up especially, but a few were burned down and mostly unusable, like this once-waterpark with broken glass and burned wood:

The art on the walls of this building were too cool not to give each light-skeleton their own room, I took this 441 second exposure I call "Full House" around blue hour.

Created using the whole jar of color-tips for my Night-Writer LED marker.

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The stairs in some of these buildings do not have any supports and look like they could fall at any moment. In certain buildings, the roofs and stairwell areas were already collapsed.

Walking around in the dark here was especially treacherous. 

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Now let's go up to the attic inside this partially burned down building and I'll share a new stegosaurus Light-Fossil that took me 180 seconds to draw. It's my last image I'll be sharing for a little while until next week's post.

Title: A Noise in the Attic

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Thanks for reading, and stay bright!

 

 

Nocturnal Netherlands

Location: Netherlands - The Hague & Amsterdam

Hello again, this is the first post I've made in over a month, it feels good to be back in the states after a long travel abroad! Let's start with my trip to the Netherlands where I met up with fellow light-art photographer Hugo Baptista

He welcomed myself and Astrobandit to his home and showed us a local park that he thought we might like to take some photos at, so we stayed up late this night and came up with the following animation (above) along w a few other gems.

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This (above) was the first image of the night, we were walking down this tree-lined path when suddenly a park employee truck cast some light from behind the trees and gave me an idea for a photo! Without delay I unpacked my camera gear and set up for this shot - my 'October Skeletons' with some nice orange light from behind - thanks Hugo for the backlighting here!  

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As you can see, the fog began to grow thick late into the night, this presents some interesting lighting opportunities to silhouette figures or trees and give a mysterious feel to the environment. 

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Before we hop over to Amsterdam, I wanted to share this 'Tree Rex' image that took a bit of coordination between myself and Hugo. He did the orange backlighting combined with the front 45 degree blue lighting on each side the trees for added depth. Then I added in my pink T. Rex for a pop of dinosaur in the center using a Night-Writer w pink color-tip.

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I can tell you it wasn't easy to get this shot of Amsterdam at night, not only because of the light-pollution, but because of all the bicycles and foot traffic! I was dodging selfie-sticks and bikes throughout this image, it's not my best light-writing but it definitely captures the vibrant life of the city! Old and new together in a hodgepodge of tourism combined with a long history of trade, war, art, and culture. 

Amsterdam II

Here (above) on a more quiet street I was able to capture a better light-font with the backdrop of one of Amsterdam's famous canals that permeate the city, but I think I like the last one better overall due to the character of the city in it. Tell me if you agree, and stay tuned for more because the next city we visit is Berlin in Germany. Until then, stay bright my light friends!

Eastern Sierras

Location: Mono County, CA

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Here we are at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the elevation here is around 7600 ft and it gets a bit cold at night. I had this place in mind for a few months, the last time we visited it was too cold to get in the water, but on this night the conditions were just right!

Upon arriving at the camping spot, our neighbor alerted us to the fact that there was a large black bear mere feet away and that we should immediately put all our food in the bear box, so we did right away!

We heard the snapping of large branches on the ground and bush-shaking noises for a bit. After speaking with the rangers we learned that they have a local bear that weighs about 700 lbs and likes to investigate any smell of food. They told us not to have food in our tents because the bear was not shy about poking his head in to grab a bite!

deer

Here's a deer on the outskirts of the lake, it pulled the 'deer in headlights' look long enough for me to snap this long exposure with some stars.

The next day we took an off road trip to Lake Crowley and checked out these strange formations I really wanted to see in person. There was a 2015 LA Times article about how they were formed that you can read HERE. Something to do with hot volcanic steam & ash mixing with cold waters above. Be advised that if you try to see this for yourself, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to get there.

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Here's another view from inside the Crowley Columns. 

crowleyspires_DT.jpg

It was blazing hot out there so we took a few umbrellas with us to block some of the sun. It was nice to cool off a bit on the walk back by stepping into the lake. Look at those sun rays!

lake walker

One of the more disgusting aspects of this location was all the fossilized maggots in the rock.

After an adventurous ride back, we made our way to Mono Lake for sunset. The yellow road out there looked really nice at golden hour.

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I brought my trusty Night-Writer with me to take a few glamour shots. Here I am levitating it with THE FORCE!

Look at that sunset!

sunset at mono lake

One more glamour shot for good measure, the pink light was too nice. 

Back at the camping spot we made a small fire and I did a short circle around the fire pit to create this looping gif. It might make you dizzy..

campfire

I pulled a late night mission to do a few other images in Owens Valley area and came away with this group of Quails walking across the road.

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Around this time, it was about 3am and I was starting to get a bit delirious from lack of sleep.. Which is when the best stuff happens!

I really let this last shot rip.. It's actually 33 images in one! 32 for the Panorama of the environment and 1 for the light-painted skeletons. Very happy with the way this crazy image came together, I mirrored it bc I thought it looked great as a circle.

Title: Bigger Than Us

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That's all for now, if you liked these images, do check out my light-art archive for the full collection and print purchasing options. Thanks for reading, and stay bright!

The Rocky Mountains (Night)

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

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Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park offered calm and reflective waters on this night. It made me a bit nervous being called 'Bear Lake', here I was hiking around by myself in the dark hoping I would not run into a bear.

I was on high alert and of course all I could think of was bears, so I decided it would be a good place to light-paint one for my Animals Series.

Title: Green Bear (please don't eat me)

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Let's move up in elevation from this spot and visit the Alpine Tundra. As you can see, you never know what to expect from the weather up there. For the image below it was pouring rain toward the end of the exposure and lightning was going off in the background! I only had one chance to try this photo below.

Title: There's a Storm Coming

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The title for the image above is a reference to the common saying in cinema 'There's a Storm Coming' as foreshadowing for something big about to happen. I really like this supercut of all the times people say it in films, it's comical how many times it is used - but I felt that saying here.

I did a short timelapse of an electrical storm (above) viewed from Estes Park, CO. The storm was directly over Loveland about 30 miles away, what a wild light show!

Moving down in elevation, let's visit Sprague Lake on a calm night. Unreal reflections on the lake, this cloud hung in the air as it passed the core of the Milky Way, nice to see it twice!

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Now let's get our feet wet with some light-painting. I wanted to try a Hadrosaur reflected on the water with the galaxy behind, so I took off my socks, rolled up my jeans and hopped into the cold water. Happy to get this blue Light-Fossil (below). 

Title: Blue Hadrosaur

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Since this was such a beautiful location, I had to try something suggested on instagram (@DTnightwriter account) - it was supposed to be Nessie vs. Giant Squid, but I thought it looked like were hugging, so I just went with it. I was really cold after this, so I decided to call it quits for the night.

Title: Starcrossed Lovers

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We'll end this post with a backyard light-painting session at our friends Bob & Tara's place. They had a great hammock that we used as a prop, fun times using the Night-Writer and hanging out with friends in Colorado!

Here's Bob's first light-painting. A solid smiley! I lit the hammock with a bit of red and blue from the sides. 

Astrobandit draws a pink dancing figure. Great form!

chillmode

Meanwhile, I drew a skeleton holding a martini, cheers to you, and goodnight. If you haven't seen it already, check out my post about visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the day RIGHT HERE.