Low-light Photography Roundup Winter 2018

Location: Los Padres National Forest

It's been a while since my last blog post, so I figured I'd make up for it with this Winter roundup of my best low light photography and light paintings since then!

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Here's Astrobandit and I kicking it off. We've been doing more collaborative projects lately. 

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What's New?

I've been testing out a new LED device I'm developing called a 'Color-Caster'. The tool is used for lighting a subject or the environment, you can draw with it too of course. Think of it as a bigger and more powerful version of the Night-Writer - a related but different type of tool.

Here it is in use. I colored in the tree with some purple and highlighted the background red-orange (below). The skeletons were drawn in with a Night-Writer + color tips.

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This is what the tool looks like if you draw with it pointed towards the camera. It doesn't work for detailed precision on/off stuff because this tool has a either on or off switch but it's great for one line continuous drawing. The colors are changed through use of a color-slider that you control with your hand: super-manual!

Here is a color test with 4 different color-sliders I've made. I'm working on developing a bunch of 6-color combo bars to maximize creative potential with the tool.

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The light without the color slider is very bright! Here is what it looks like directed at the camera - quite dense and quick to flare! This was shot around f.16 (below).

Color-Caster works well for psychedelic studio or portrait lighting. Quickly change colors and flick on/off for some wild visual effects.

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Here's a rough version of what the Color-Caster looks like in its current state, it uses a 9v battery and a large LED along with color-slider which can be stored below the tool (and give it some sweet color accents). Of course it still needs some work, but it works well and I'm excited about further testing!

If you have any suggestions for me or color schemes you'd like to see tested out, give me a shout at contact@dariustwin.com or leave a comment below!

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New Light-Fossils

I've created a few keepers in the 'Light-Fossils' department, so far my favorites are this 'Sabre-toothed Tiger' captured during blue hour (below).

The timing has to be just right for these type of images. You can easily go over or under on an exposure when working in these type of dynamic lighting conditions. My guess paid off here!

Speaking of dynamic lighting, fog presents it's own unique challenges! Carry a lens tissue because you may need to wipe off your lense after every capture. I was happy to create a nice brontosaurus skeleton in front of an abandoned camp during this dense fog. I love the way you can see the colored light dissipate into the moisture!

Super Blue Blood Moon

We woke up around 4am and did a few once in a lifetime shots like these below. I'll kick it off with this one, it has become a personal favorite(below). 

Of course I had to try a light-fossil. here is a Woolly Mammoth with the 'Super Blue Blood Moon' on its back.

Light-Painting in the Snow

Since we've moved out to the mountains we've gotten a lot more weather than we did in Los Angeles. When it's cold and raining in LA, it is often snowing an hour North on the mountain! here are some light-paintings I did in ~11 degree weather. Layering up is an absolute must along with a facemask for the wind! I especially liked this one of the polar bears. On my way back I noticed footsteps in the snow of a bobcat that had been following my tracks.

Here I trekked out a bit and illustrated a snowfox above the mountain village.

Had to light paint a 'frosty the snowman' ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

More things to come, I will be blogging a bit more during the Spring once we get to do some road trips again! Until then, stay bright and I hope you have enjoyed this light update!

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.

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Desert Nightlife

Location: Pioneertown, CA

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Here's a slow dance with an equally slow shutter, this image took 156 seconds to illustrate with my red and blue tipped Night-Writer

Astrobandit and I checked this place out last week in Yucca Valley called The Ruin Venue which is mostly used for large parties and weddings. I set up for a few images using it's interesting outdoor features like this geometric lighting arrangement which was powered by a small generator.

For this image, I began the exposure with the lights on, and then walked to the generator and unplugged the lights to illustrate my dancing skeletons. The weather was strange this night, it was relatively calm in this part of the desert, but we could see intense storm clouds forming in the distance. Lighting struck a handful of times, but it was far off in the distance, so we just enjoyed the show.

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Here's a view of the fireplace inside the actual ruins. I thought this would be a good spot for my Stegosaurus Light-Fossil - this particular image is a composite of two shots. The stegosaurus took 198 seconds to produce, then I did an additional shot for the sky so I could capture those stars that were visible for a brief moment between the stormy clouds.

If you'd like to try this sort of image (above) for yourself, you can check out my blog post on compositing High/Low ISO photos together RIGHT HERE.

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Another view of the interior from outside the structure with the lights on. I really enjoyed the inside/outside feel of this place, it blends in well with the environment and makes for unique photo opportunities like this one. 

To learn more about light-painting, check out my EDU page for a full how-to explanation.

Old Westerns

Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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This car looks as if it had been in the desert for about a century. Judging from the Model-T appearance of the car, it probably has.

The old ranch was originally bought in the 1930's for gold and silver mining by Bill Keys (left). He had a land dispute with his neighbor Worth Bagley (right) over control to an access road for gold and silver ore processing and shot him dead. The actual spot of the gunfight is marked by a tombstone further down the trail.

Here's a good view of the car, if you know the specific model of the car, let me know and I'll update this post!

old car

Next we're at wonderland wash, where there's an abandoned brick house that looks out to the desert from a large base of rocks.

For the image below, I used part of the wall on right side of the house to illustrate the dinosaur's head and then moved slowly down the neck and across a floor littered with bricks to the other side of the house, ending with the Brachiosaurus tail. One more addition to my Light Fossils collection.

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Shortly after illustrating the dinosaur above, a warm glow began to cast from the east. When the moon rose just above the hills, another unique lighting opportunity presented itself. Here is my view through the window of the old brick house:

moonrise

With the moon now highlighting the front of the house and leaving joshua tree shadows on the old ruins, I started another long exposure. For this image I drew in twenty nine eyes looking through the doorway and window.

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We end the night with a song by the fireplace. Thanks for viewing!

Here's a link to the hike if you'd like to check this place out for yourself!

Ground is Lava

Location: Mojave, CA | Settings: F5.6 / ISO 50 / 215 second exposure

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For this shot I wanted to stay away from the spectral look that has seemed to dominate the end of my 2015 light-fossils. For the new year I'd like to focus more on specific color choices as well as adding in multi-layered light-elements.

For this shot of a Lambeosaurus Light-Fossil, I used an orange-tipped Night-Writer along with a flash of red from off-screen left and frame-right, held low to emphasize the cracked earth texture. Looks like lava to me :) 

One of the parts to this image that isn't very noticeable is the moon in top-center of the composition, just underneath the dinosaur. If I were to print this large, it would be more of a focal point.

The most distinctive feature to the Lambeosaurus dinosaur is it's cranial crest, which is mostly hollow. Educated guessers think that the cranial crest could have functioned as part snorkeling device,  for communication purposes, and for distinctions between species and sexes. 

Here's a cool link I posted before about how a Parasaurolophus might have sounded like (based off a 3d printed skull with air blown through the nasal cavity, I'd imagine the Lambeosaurus to sound a bit like this.

Check out my full collection of Light-Fossils in the Gallery below:

Allosaurus Crossing

Location: Hales Grove, CA | Settings: F5.6 / ISO 50 / 281 seconds

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I'm happy to add a new Allosaurus to my Light-fossils collection, one of my favorite dinosaurs. This theropod lived about 150 million years ago (before the T.rex at ~ 67 million years ago), was around 30 feet in length, had serrated teeth, and was a carnivorous predator at the top of the foodchain.

This bridge was a pretty sketchy place in the dark. There were leaves and debris that had built up in gaps between each of the wooden planks, any of which could have broken an ankle if you weren't careful. You can't see it, but there is a creek about 9 ft below the bridge, I thought a troll would emerge any second.

The rain had lightened up for a little bit and I got this one shot before it started to pour again. It poured for the next two days straight.

For more light-fossils, check the gallery below:


Spectral Corythosaurus

Location: Salton Sea, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F5.6, ISO 50, 142 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

This image is a bit deceiving to me - it looks like the dinosaur is about 12 feet from the camera, in reality, it's more like 4 feet.

That's what a 14mm lens does - it crams everything into the camera. For the light-painter, this is both a blessing and a curse. It's great for tight spaces, but can be a bit confusing for us to imagine where the frame begins and ends! 

Check out the full collection of Light-Fossils below:

Flow

Location: Rainbow Basin

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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.

 

 

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 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.

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.

Rainbow Raptor

Location: Buffalo, NY / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 237 seconds

Gear: Canon 6D,  24-70mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and proto Night-Writer.

Scouting locations like this in the day is a good idea, I try to do it whenever possible - It's not safe any other way, you should get well acquainted with your location before shooting it in the dark.

This can be the difference between a light-noob and a light-ninja. 

For this shot I knew the location already, a decrepit historic building on the East Side of Buffalo - a perfect spot for my Rainbow Raptor.

I'd prefer to go with someone else for safety purposes, but went alone because I was picking my brother up from the airport an hour later.. That was before the lightning storm hit and his plane was delayed 3 hours.

During this shoot the rain began falling through broken windows and lightning struck in the distance to the left of the building. I didn't stay long.

Click here to see more Light-Fossils.

Rainbow Rex

Location: White Mountains, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F16, ISO 100, 272 seconds. Cloudy surroundings at F2.8, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release, and Proto Night-Writer.

These type of multi-colored Light Fossils are probably the most difficult. I think the best one I have to date is this plesiosaur. I have tried many - but only these two are worth showing.

This dino was supposed to be blue and gold. Somewhere along the way it switched to a variety of other colors and I just went with it.

Part of light-art and photography in general is just getting out and exploring the world - to see and capture things that take a journey to be in the presence of. This was one of those places.

We stopped by this location earlier in the evening to scope out the landscape and to snap a picture of this horse that was feeding on some grass.

horse

When we got close it started to pose in an aggressive manner, so we took our cue and left it in peace. Later horse!

horsey

Parasaurolophus Crossing

Location: Route 66 near Bagdad, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F16, ISO 100, 266 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer with Yellow Color-tip.

A train speeds by as the ancient being lumbers over asphalt, the stars above remain seemingly unchanged, a sole connection to the past present and future.

Check out this interesting video of what these actual dinosaurs may have sounded like.

View more dinosaurs made of light in the Light Fossils Gallery.

T. Rex in Bagdad

Location: Bagdad, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F11, ISO 100, 172 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer with Green Color-tip.

Astrobandit and I took Route 66 on a whim to see what we could find along the way to Needles, CA - some of that road didn't look like it has been maintained since the 1930's - it was like driving on a never-ending cheese-grater!

Late at night we passed a small ghost-town by the name of Bagdad, it had some interesting junk-cars and even junkier buildings, but there was a large yellow light coming from a construction company that blew-out the spot - not good for night-shooting.

Halfway between Siberia and Bagdad I stopped at this place because there was so little light-pollution and drew this T. Rex second take using my new color-tips for Night-Writer (which are available for purchase starting today)!

 

 

Blue Beachside Brontosaurus

Location: Point Dume - Malibu, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 150 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Info on how this shot was created:

Gear: Canon 6D,  24-70mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release with blue tipped Night-Writer.

I've been to this beach many times, but hadn't realized that this was the location they filmed the original Planet of the Apes scene with the post-apocalyptic looking statue of liberty.

It's a cool-looking place in person, and great beach, but difficult to shoot with all that moisture in the air! Bring a lens-wipe for sure, you will use it.

Interested in seeing more 'Light-Fossils'? Check out the Light-Fossils Gallery!

Have a question about how this image was captured? Check out my recently updated EDU page - dedicated to the education of light-art photography.

Yes Sur

Location: Big Sur, CA / Settings: F8, ISO 100, 189 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer

Big Sur is my special place, a personal paradise that I like to go and clear my head for a few days to feel refreshed and inspired - filling my cup, so to speak.

Each time I visit, is different - the weather changes on a dime and you're never sure whether you'll get clouds, fog, wind, clear skies or a combination of all three in the same day.

The skies here are some of the darkest in California and on a new moon, you can see galaxies far away with an atmospheric glow on the horizon.

Camera Settings: F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Here's the Moon, Jupiter and Venus shot from a pullout off the PCH during Blue Hour.

Camera Settings: F4.5, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Treading Light

Location: Glass Beach - Fort Bragg, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 156 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Info on how this shot was created:

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer.

When I was here last several months ago, there was a staircase being constructed. I'd imagine by now that staircase is operational.

At the time, we scaled the cliffs to this spot on a new moon, which makes for a great view of the stars, but difficult for hiking. I hope the sea-glass shore stays the way it is - but I know it won't.

Check out the full set of light-fossil images.

Rolling Bones

Location: El Mirage, CA / Settings: (Composite of 2 images) Skeletons at F8, ISO 100, 237 seconds. Skateboard & stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds. 

After researching a few dry lake beds, I soon realized it's the responsibility of every image-capturing human being to shoot an illusion where there's something that's usually small (but appears large) in the foreground and something that usually large (that appears small) in the background.

Just take a look at some of these images at the salt flats in Boliva for example. I wanted to put my own spin on that kind of photo.

Now run for your lives ;)