Location: Rainbow Basin


Today's post is short and sweet - it's all about FLOW when using the Night-Writer light-pen (or any LED light for that matter).

I captured a quick time-lapse of myself drawing an Allosaurus Light Fossil the last time I was out to illustrate this quick pointer - making complicated figures (like a dinosaur skeleton) is a process of building out simple shapes to form a larger figure - following the flow from start to finish and never back-tracking.

I always start with the skull and make my way down the dinosaur's body, branching off in fragments for the arms and legs, then ending at the tail (as you can see in the animated .gif above).

By side-stepping and drawing one piece at a time, I'm able to think about what comes next rather than stopping in the middle and going back to where I was - thus throwing off concentration and making it nearly impossible to find the same spot again.



Full Moon Hiking

Location: Rainbow Basin, CA / Settings: F5.6, ISO 100, 317 seconds

For this shot I used my trusty Canon 6D - (here's a pretty awesome bundle deal) coupled with my 24-70mm lens (another pretty sweet bundle deal). This was the last shot on my camera for the night - the battery died immediately after the shutter closed.

I used TCB's RGB light-pen for this illustration taken in the middle of the desert under a full moon shortly after the lunar eclipse. Here's a killer DIY tutorial on how to make an RGB light-pen for yourself.

To see the full collection of Light Skeletons, click the Gallery link below:

Sparkling Skies

Location: Big Sur, CA / Settings: (12 vertical images) F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto Tripod.

For this shot I just cranked the ISO about as far as I could take it without totally inundating my images with noise. I'd say about 6400 is as far you can take it with a Canon 6D.. Unless in colder conditions - it's funny that most cameras have a sweet spot with temperature and functionality, I'd imagine around 55 degrees is best for my little mechanical companion.

It took a bit of editing to get it to this point - I brought the highlights out, pushed the clarity quite a bit, and had to do a bit of warping to get all the vertical images lined up with a more realistic horizon.

If you were going to try and shoot an image like this for yourself you'll want a few key things: 

1. Dark skies - check out this site to scope out dark skies in your location. Pay attention to the moon phase: (iphone app, android app).

2. The right camera gear - I've put together a list of recommended product here, it's not all-inclusive, but it'll give you an idea of what features you may want to look for in a camera.

3. A sweet map app of the night-sky - this one does the trick for me: (iphone app, android app).

4. Set your gear to something like F2.8, ISO 3200, for 15 seconds and see what happens (magic).

Allosaurus in the Basin

Location: Rainbow Basin - Barstow, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F7.1, ISO 100, 202 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto Tripod24-70mm Lensremote shutter, and Night-Writer with diffused white-tip.

Deep within Rainbow Basin, a ridge-line carves across the edge of the hillside. A new Light Fossil walks beneath.

blue hour in the basin

An interesting place in terms of geology - colorful layers to be seen on all the hillsides.

This spot is difficult to get to if traveling by car - 4wd recommended! Huge rocks toward the last third of the loop, we had to turn back in our sedan for fear of getting stuck.

A closer look at one of the most colorful formations. If you're ever headed from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you might want to stop here if you have a higher clearance vehicle - it's worth a look.

See the full collection of Light Fossil:

Spectral Parasaurolophus

Location: Riverside Campground - Big Sur, CA / Settings: F5.6, ISO 400, 194 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto Tripod24-70mm Lensremote shutter, and proto Night-Writer.

Water to Light is like Yin to Yang.

This river in Big Sur, CA made a perfect spot for the latest multi-colored addition to my Light-Fossils Collection

Here's a practice dinosaur that has a ridiculously good-looking reflection:

practice dino

Here's a good video example of how dark it really was (footage of drawing process is sped up):

Out for Blood

Location: Rainbow Basin - Barstow, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F6.3, ISO 100, 163 seconds. Super Blood Moon at F6.3, ISO 3200, 6 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto Tripod24-70mm Lensremote shutter, and proto Night-Writer.

Last one from the Super Blood Moon - promise.

I just had to get in a light-skeleton on this momentous occasion. The next time a super blood moon comes around, I will be 50 years old.

If you do plan on shooting an event like this, here are a few tips I've learned from my own efforts:

1) Plan ahead - I wanted an interesting location, so I used Google's satellite-view map to find a cool layered geological locale a few hours out from Los Angeles.

2) Pack your bags - Make sure you have all the gear you need to make the shot happen - telephoto lens, remote shutter, tripod, LED lights, all that and a bag of chips or apples (if you get hungry). Water also - that's an important one in the desert!

3) Show up early - Getting there while it's still light out is crucial - Scout around the location and take pics on your phone for reference later when it's pitch-black out and you are scrambling to get the right angle.

Check out the full collection of Light-Skeletons below:

Super Blood Moon Special

Location: Rainbow Basin - Barstow, CA / Settings: F5.6, ISO 3200, 6 seconds

Gear: Canon 6D, Manfrotto Tripod, 300mm Lens, and remote shutter.

It was pretty crazy getting out here in a sedan.. But let's not get into that right now - what's important is the Super Blood Moon - and here we have a view of what can be accomplished on a 300mm telephoto lens. 

blood moon at 70mm

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto Tripod24-70mm Lens, and remote shutter.

Next up we have the same spot shot from a 24-70mm Canon lens - I like this one too, it focuses more on the environment than just the moon itself. Those hills have some interesting layers.

blood moon at 14mm

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto Tripod, 14mm Lens, and remote shutter.

Now for a super-wide view of the environment - this is what your 14mm will do. The moon looks like a tiny red marble in the center of frame.

In closing - the Super Blood Moon celestial event is over, but don't worry - it will be back in 18 years. Bye for now super blood moon.

Smoke on the Water / Fire in the Sky

Location: PCH - Big Sur, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F5.6, ISO 100, 367 seconds. Stars at F2, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DZeiss F2 28mm lensManfrotto 190x tripodWireless Remote, and Night-Writer kit.

This night was unusual in light of the fires going on in Monterey County (Tassajara Fire), just North of the area we were camping at in Big Sur.

Smoke drifted South once the Sun had set and the smell of fire got stronger as I made my way North on the PCH - I pulled over at a spot I thought would be good for catching the Milky Way over the Pacific and captured this image of my light-skeletons looking out into the abyss.

The smoke gave an orangey-yellow hue to the densest part of the Milky Way - I had to do some tough edits on this file to pull out the detail along with some noise reduction.

A great app I've been using for getting rid of the noise is one called 'Noiseless' (for Mac) - it's not perfect, but it's the best I've come across yet. 

For a quick tutorial on how to do composite shots like this - see my EDU section - Q5 - it's at the bottom of the page.

While there are photographers focusing on 'SOOC' - straight out of camera - a practice of light-art in which the image in the camera is untouched (shown as it was captured - not edited in any way). In regards to light art, I am not one of these people - I think technology should be taken advantage of in every aspect it can to give the viewer a better vision of what we as night-photographers are out trying to capture - our nocturnal perspectives.

If it means editing the file to pull out important details in RAW processing, so be it. That's what capturing in RAW format is for - more information contained within your images.

That said, I do not believe in adding things that are not there to begin with. My composites are always taken on location, using two images - taken at two different camera settings - I do this for the purpose of capturing the dynamic range between what's best for capturing the light art, and what's best for capturing the environment.

Make Way for Mcway

Location: Mcway Falls - Big Sur,CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F.5.6, ISO 100, 205 seconds. Environment at F.2, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6D, Zeiss F2 28mm lens, Manfrotto 190x tripod, Wireless Remote, and Night-Writer kit.

To get this place properly lit at night you really have to do your homework in terms of where the moon will be - it's nestled away in a cove.

I'm not saying it's properly lit here - it's about halfway there (as you can see from the halfway lit waterfall just below the heart - will have to try again under different conditions. Live and learn!

If you'd like to draw your own light-skeletons - check out my video for a guided how-to lesson - just don't add a face for it to appear turned around.

Becoming a big fan of Big Sur, CA yet? Check out another blog post on Big Sur, CA from our last visit in June.

Click the image below for the full gallery of light-skeletons with art-printing options:

Special Prize

I want to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation for winning a light-art competition called 'The International Light Painting Awards - 2015' - I was caught a bit off-guard that I had received the Special Prize!

I was out camping with some friends and received word of it by my Family via text on Sunday: http://www.lightart-photography.de/lp-award/ - wow. I get my own exhibition :D

See you at Photokina in Germany - September 2016.

This online competition is an important opportunity for light-artists around the world - a chance to showcase (what they feel are) 2 of their very best long exposure photography images.

As with last year, this year's competition featured the most incredible light-art photographs to date from around the world. 

Please do your eyes a favor and take a look at some these image entries: http://www.lightart-photography.de/lp-award/gallery/  - now try to figure out how they did it! Some of them are mysterious, but at the same time - telling.

Now, of course the judges can't be normal photo-judges - these judges have to be specialized: 

Assembled of 11 international photo-artists - well respected within the light-art community - Jan Leonardo (Germany), Patrick (Canada), Brian (US), Hugo (Netherlands), Eric (US), Sergey (RU), TigTab (AUS), Janne (Finland), Alfredo (Spain), Jason (US), Jadikan (FR), and Rosetta (UK).

A big respectful shout out to Pala Teth from Belgium, Chris Bauer (Oregon), Namor Pastor (Spain), El Nino de las Luces (Spain), Dana Maltby (US), Denis Smith (AUS), Tim Gamble (UK), Gareth Nathan (Ireland), Xiao Yang (China), Cisco (Morocco), Will (France), Diliz (France), Stephane Babatasi (France), Frederic Leroux (France), Dan Whitaker (UK), Sven Gerard (Germany), Diana Ponce Prieto (Spain), and to everyone that chose their very best photos for the competition.

Spectral Brontosaurus

Location: Big Sur, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F5.6, ISO 100, 230 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6D24-70mm LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, Proto Night-Writer, and Remote shutter.

I had been to this location a few times before and knew about the interesting doorway at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, CA. After checking to see where the Milky Way's position would be around 10pm - I decided to try my luck for clear skies and another spectral dinosaur for my Light-Fossils series.

Luckily, the skies were very clear this night, and the Milky Way looked amazing behind the rock portal.

There were a few other photographers at the same spot, so I was able to make a few new friends and they were nice enough to let me take a few shots between their exposures. They gave me a few insightful pointers as I tried to create the rainbow dinosaur you see above. Longer tail here, more of a spine there, etc.

As fate would have it, one of the photographers - David, runs a Central Coast photography workshop called www.rainbowspirit.com - he was very knowledgeable about the Central Coast area and gave me a few tips on locations I visited the next day. Thank you David!

Here's a shot at Bixby Bridge - a California landmark seen in just about every car commercial.. This image makes me think of this familiar scene.

I'll end this post with a strange image I shot along the PCH heading North towards Bixby Bridge. The Moon is setting into the Pacific Ocean, illuminating a smokey orange horizon caused by the Tassajara Fire - a 1200 acre blaze near Monterey, CA.

Hide and go sneak

Location: Sedona, AZ / Settings: F.10, ISO 400, 256 seconds

Gear: Canon 6D24-70mm LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, Night-Writer kit, Rosco color gels, and Remote shutter.

For this shot I had to take advantage of these trees - they seemed to be planted about three feet away from each other in the most meticulous manner.

There's a full moon just beyond those hills in the distance - it lit up the sky just right to give this image a good deal of depth. 

If you haven't seen my video on how to draw one of these light-skeleton dudes, check it out here for a step by step video demonstration - created with color-tipped LED light.

I colored the trees using red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, and deep blue rosco gels - casted light from just behind the camera.

See the full collection of light-skeletons along with printing options on their Gallery page:

A Few Good Tips

Lately I've been using color-tips along with the Night-Writer for basically all of my light-art photos. The colors work well and I like drawing with a slightly diffused light-source - it's easier to properly expose the image when the light-source isn't blowing out part of the detailed illustration.

One thing I've been doing that helps to diffuse the bright LED on Night-Writer (when I'm not using the color-tips) is to rip off a piece of paper (usually from an old receipt or whatever I had in my pocket at the time), place it in the recessed tip area and presto - a duller light-source.

I have been doing this for a few months now, enough that I've decided to go ahead and produce some semi-opaque white color-tips. I think from now on I will include one with every Night-Writer order. It's useful for diffusing the light and gives a great 3D texture:

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F.11, ISO 100, 21 seconds

Gear: Canon 6D, Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, and Remote shutter

Taking the tips concept a bit further, I've also been working on some glowing color-tips - mostly just to see what they look like in use.

My results are kind of interesting - it's basically like getting in 2 drawings for the energy of one with regard to battery use.

Use the LED light for the first drawing, and this charges the glow for your second drawing - I've illustrated some Yin and Yang symbols to demonstrate the idea:

Location: Kitchen / Settings: F4.5, ISO 1600, 21 seconds each

yin and yang

Gear: Canon 6DZeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, and Remote shutter

I may offer these as additional color-tips for the Night-Writer soon. There is still some testing to be done with them, and the red glowing tip smells pretty bad (like sulfur), but I like what direction this concept is headed.

Well Weathered

Today is a special post about shooting in unique weather conditions - specifically, fog and rain.

Fog is basically a low-lying cloud of moisture that can make for some interesting and moody shots if you're prepared for the opportunity. Long exposure photography pairs especially well with fog because the LED lights create the most spectacular glow:

Location: PCH - Big Sur, CA / Settings: (Composite of 2 images) Light art at F.9, ISO 100, 133 seconds. Rain at F2.8, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

well weathered

Gear: Canon 6D, Manfrotto 190x Tripod, 24-70mm Lens, Remote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

The challenge here is that moisture and electronics don't mix very well, and fog can move quick - getting a good shot without damaging your camera is going to take some quick work on your part. I recommend setting your camera up on a tripod before-hand and keeping it in your passenger seat so it's ready to go at a moment's notice like in the case above.

Location: Salt Point State Park, CA / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 24-70mm, 171 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

Bring your killer katana umbrella, a good wet-weather jacket, and don't forget the lens-wipe. In addition, you could weather-proof your camera with something like a Hurricane Hood - it's a bit overkill for me in Los Angeles, but I'd definitely rock one in the Pacific Northwest (or wherever these type of weather conditions are common).

Location: Central Valley, CA / Settings: F.10, ISO 100, 124 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

Another thing I like to do as a camera-safety precaution is to keep little silica bags from new shoes that I purchase - every time I get a new pair of black shoes, I throw those silica bags right into my camera bag for immediate re-use - they absorb moisture - they're small and totally necessary.

Location: Malibu, CA / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 585 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and proto Night-Writer LED-pen.

If you liked this post and want to read more about the 'Salt Point' location in Northern California - check it out here.

Out There

Location: Anza Borrego, CA / Settings: 8 vertical images shot at F.2, 3200 ISO, for 8 seconds

I used a Canon 6D along with Manfrotto 190x Tripod and a Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 Lens to shoot this super-crisp pano in the desert last fall. You can click on the image to see it larger - I'm pretty amped on the clarity of this image. Can't wait to this lens and my wider angle 18mm Zeiss Distagon T* 3.5 lens the next time visiting dark-skies.

I've edited together this pano of 8 vertical images using photoshop in the past - they have a photo-merge feature that usually works great.

Sometimes I'm not thrilled with the results, so I take it next door to the old App Store - recently I've bought a program (for mac) called Panorama Stitcher that works pretty great, ofter better than photoshop. It seems to have less issues with the blends, see for yourself:

campers pano

If you'll notice the sky, there's three ribbons that appear between the stars where the program had some difficulty.

See my full collection of Nature-related images on the Gallery:

Sedona Stegosaurus

Location: Sedona, AZ / Settings: F.9, ISO 100, 320 seconds

For a shot like this, you'll need a good pair of mostly dark-colored water shoes. After a few unnecessary scrapes and slips you will understand why - I use mine often and I'm always glad to have them on hand for situations like this.

I used a Canon 6D for this shot along with my 24-70mm lens, Manfrotto 190x tripodRemote shutter release and Night-Writer light-pen.

The main challenge here was lining up the shot and getting the colorful sail in the right place - which took a few attempts. I wanted the full reflection in view, so I placed the tripod and camera up as tall as it could go about 25 feet out from my new light-fossil - smack dab in oak creek.


Location: Grand Canyon, AZ / Settings: F8, ISO 200, 218 seconds

A new edition to the Light-Fossils series - this colorful pterodactyl did not come easy.

However, where there is a will, there is a way - let's go through the process starting with the first attempt:

cartoon pterodactyl

I started with a brief gestural drawing using the Night-Writer without colors.. A bit cartoonish, but fun to play with the placement of where I wanted my more colorful creation to be.

After getting the composition where I wanted it, I was ready to proceed to the next step - drawing the flying dinosaur with white light - I may have added a crumpled receipt into the recessed tip of the Night-Writer just to try and diffuse the bright white light here - that's why the light is just a bit yellowish.

pterodactyl 2

The pieces were not exactly coming together the way I wanted, but I was ready at this point to move on toward using a bunch of colors for the next attempt - luckily, this move paid off and I got the shot without falling into the Grand Canyon. The full moon helped me in this regard, I would be very careful on a dark night - there are no guard rails.

Similar Posts:

Mortar-Pit Session

Location: San Pedro, CA / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 714 seconds

Had a fun session with fellow night-shooter Brandon Yoshizawa the other day - the main challenge here was utilizing all the space!

I put on my skateboarder's thinking-cap and went to work here - a kick-flip here, push there, up the bank, then down the rail, power-slide to slow down a bit, then hit the ledge with a backside nose-blunt. I used a few color-tips on ye old Night-Writer for some variation between characters.

For the next shot (Troll Shower), Brandon took to the sky and delivered a nice steel wool spin from above - I placed a big blue troll below for good measure. On this one I used one of fellow light-artist Jason Page's light-painting brushes - a large bottle brush - FYI that Troll is around 8ft tall.

For the finisher, Brandon and I teamed up for this spectacle of a shot - he spun a fire-orb and I placed some skeletons around it. A nice bonus was to see the WAKE text up top.

City Stage (making of vid)

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F.22, ISO, 192 seconds

For a shot like this you have to control how much light enters your camera - for this reason, I set the lens to the highest aperture possible.

To get a good idea of how much my standing in front of the city-lights affected the exposure, just take a look at my legs - the city-lights are well exposed, outside of them I'd say it was a bit too bright for clarity's sake.

Fortunately, clarity of city-lights wasn't the point to this image, it's a balance of the elements - the tree, the angel, the lights below.

I hope you enjoy this photo, you can check out the full collection of Angels in my Gallery: