A Visit to Big Sur, CA

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.


Location: Borrego Springs, CA / Settings: (composite) Light art at F7.1 / ISO 50 / 375 seconds. Stars at F2.8 / ISO 6400 / 15 seconds.

Printing Options

I try to stay away from vertical images, but sometimes there is no other way to shoot it properly.

For this image I used a new prototype of the Night-Writer (this is the 3rd version - R & D is not easy!). The chameleon version of the tool is performing really well and this version does not get hot like the last did. The main problem is the form factor, which I'm working on, I hope to have something ready at some point during 2016.. May need to crowd-fund a project.

The idea behind this image stems from my childhood, my parents had all these awesome Dr. Seuss books with the most wild and creative art - this is an ode to that. I found the metal tortoise sculpture in Borrego Springs by artist Ricardo Breceda a perfect fit for the idea. Please check out his website for more examples of his incredible artwork.

For this image, I sketched out the idea before-hand and shot a photo on my phone so I could reference it later:

yurtles sketch

Check out the full collection of Animals in the gallery link below:

Embryonic - (Collaboration with Eric Pare)

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: (Composite) Circle at F4.5, ISO 1600 3 seconds. Skeleton at F5.6, ISO 100, 59 seconds.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow light-artist Eric Pare along with professional dancer Kim Henry - I've been familiar with Eric's work for some time now and it was great to collaborate on some images together.

There will be more to come next week, but I couldn't resist putting together this photo before the weekend - two very different light-styles you don't often see together in the same image.

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.

Waking the Dead

Location: Fort Erie, ON - Canada / Settings: F9, ISO 100, 554 seconds

It's not often that I go out shooting photos with my twin brother Ross.. So when I do, I try and take him to the creepiest places that no other person would go ;)

1800's Canadian cemetery at midnight - check.

We drove by this location after taking a wrong turn to get to Fort Erie, I pulled the car over and we took a walk to the spot, set up for a few shots, and got eaten alive by mosquitos. 

The amount of cobwebs and spiders on these graves were a little unsettling - when drawing the white skeleton, I came close enough to the grave-stone to see hundreds of spiders running from my Night-Writer light-pen. I tried to stay a few feet away from the other stones after that.

Gear used:

See the full collection of light skeletons in the Gallery:

Spectral Triceratops Passes Time

Location: Sedona, AZ / Settings: F.16, ISO 1600, 217 seconds

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

For this shot, I was trying to capture part of the landscape in Sedona from Schnebly Hill, but was having difficulty because of the clouds blocking the moonlight. 

I opted for a high ISO and high Fstop to achieve this look, I like the way a long-exposure can capture slow movements - you can start to see some patterns emerge in the way the clouds flow, like an upside-down river.

Similar posts:

Tesla's Spark

Location: Niagra, ON - Canada / Settings: F8, ISO 100, 108 seconds

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

Exploring Niagra Falls late at night I've come to a few realizations:

1) In the tourist season, it is never un-occupied - even at 3am I saw people with their kids in tow out for a stroll.. Strange to see, but who knows - they could have gotten in from a late flight and been on a completely different time schedule than you or I. The Falls are just as beautiful at night, and the crowds are certainly less like the circus you would see in the day.

2) The falls makes it's own weather - with all that water misting up a storm, you can bet on using your windshield wipers often.

3) It's a place that must be visited -  the sheer power and force of nature is awe-inspiring. The Canadian side is best - Horseshoe Falls all the way. American side is cool too, but right now it's under construction for the next year; visit Canada, it's awesome.

I think one of the most intriguing human aspects of this natural wonder is the idea to harness the power of the falls to create electricity - Nikola Tesla. While I was driving out of the parking lot to Horseshoe falls, I had to stop that this old building and draw a skeleton dedicated to the one of the most important figures the last century - his achievements in electricity had an immeasurable impact on the future of technology.

Niagra Falls

3,160 tons of water flows over Niagra Falls every second - Nikola Tesla put this natural power to use.

Niagra Mist

Mist from Niagra Falls covers the area for many miles (or kilometers depending on who you ask). 


Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO / Settings: (Composite) Light-art at F16, ISO 100, 165 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

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

The last thing you want to happen in the Rocky Mountains is for your car battery to die (and not have jumper cables) - at night the temperature at that elevation drops to the lower 40's quickly. 

I was able to flag down a truck with a flashlight and talk to a very nice couple who told me that they did not have jumper cables, but they could get ahold of the nearest ranger on their way out. They hooked us up a few hand-warmers before leaving, a really nice gesture. 

Thankfully, within the next 20 minutes, Ranger Walt showed up and jumped our car. I shot this image on our way out of the park with the engine running nearby, I would have loved to stay longer but did not want to push our luck!

Here's a view of the tundra earlier that day - this elk was enjoying the view:

Into the Light Matrix

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F22, ISO 100, 276 second exposure

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

It always helps to try and add new tricks to your arsenal - as far as I know, Dana Maltby aka TCB started using this trick in his photography where he would put a prism or kaleidoscope in front of the lens, lit from behind, then switched focus mid-exposure and continued lighting the environment to create some very interesting images.


This is my take on that tech - crude, I know, but it works! More experiments to follow - this one has such a small drawing area that it's tough to get anything good in middle. 

For example, this stick figure is about the size of a quarter:

stick dude

Dime for reference - I'm liking the reflections here.


Pink Elephants

Location: Alabama Hills, CA / Settings: F9, ISO 100, 86 second exposure.

Gear: Canon 6D,  24-70mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and pink light painting brush filter.

This shot is special to me, it's my way of paying respect to my grandfather who passed away recently.

I remember Grandpa Joe used to drive me and my siblings to school in the mornings when my grandparents would visit San Diego, CA from Buffalo, NY.

Every now and then, Joe would start honking the horn when there was seemingly nothing on the road, he would exclaim ' Did you see that?! Pink Elephants! Right there in the road! Three of them!' - after a few of these occurrences, me, my brother and sister started to chime in before he had a chance to do it himself - 'I see a pink elephant! Right there! Grandpa Joe, you better honk to scare them off the road!'.


Nessie Vacays at Mono Lake

Location: Mono Lake, CA / Settings: (Composite) Nessie at F13, ISO 100, 21 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

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

I had this idea in mind since the last time I visited Mono Lake, it just seemed like the type of area Nessie might like.

While I was getting set up for this shot there were a few bats chasing large moths. I was able to catch some bat-trails - they are quick little devils!


This whole trip was generally cursed, but enjoyable - torrential downpours followed us everywhere we went! 

After narrowly missing a road closure on the 14 for flash floods, we hit the majority of the Eastern-Sierra areas including Fossil Falls, Alabama Hills, Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, Hot Springs, Mono Lake, and Yosemite.

It was an exciting trip filled with lightning, hail, extreme downpours and some sketchy moments where we nearly got stuck in high-waters, the trail we drove in on turned into a full-flowing river within a matter of minutes!

In other news, I've updated the green color-tip for the Night-Writer - I thought it was a little too yellow, so I changed it to be more of an emerald hue - like Nessie.


Location: Murphy's Ranch - Pacific Palisades, CA / Settings: (Variable F-stop) F2.8 for Casted light, F16 for Skeletons, ISO 100, 553 seconds.

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

This is not an easy location to get to - it's about a 7 mile hike in and out.. But if a group of teenagers can get to it carrying a 3ft glass bong, then you can hike it with some camera gear.

One of the funniest moments happened when Astrobandit and I were setting up for this shot in the dark - A group of high school aged kids walked toward the building with flashlights and shined their light on us in the middle of this doorway (it was pitch black) - they collectively FREAKED OUT, a girl screamed - which triggered other girls to scream, and we watched as a group of 12 flashlights ran off in the opposite direction screaming for their lives!

We nearly died of laughter and Jordan attempted to explain that we were not ghosts, murderers or anything like that. It was a Scooby-Doo moment.


If you'd like to take this hike for yourself, read up on this post.

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)!



Great light shark

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F16, ISO 100, 53 seconds

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

For a shot like this, it's as easy as turning out all the lights in your room and bumping the Fstop up to 16 at ISO 100 - use the 'bulb-mode' camera setting for a leisurely illustration pace.

I've been testing out some of my new Night-Writer color-tips this week and I like the way the colors are working out - I may release them as soon as next week.

An added bonus is the texture that it adds to higher F-stop images like my light-shark above! Looking forward to making more texture-focused tips for the light-pen in the near-future.

Here's a looks at all of the different colors together - they will come in packs of 6 - ROYGBV.

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.

Inorganic Being

Location: Santa Barbara, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 100, 153 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

I've been working on some color-tips for my Night-Writer light-pen. The colors aren't exactly what I want just yet, but with a few more tries, they should be soon! 

Here is the first image I took with what I thought was going to be a red tip - Unfortunately, I'll need to make another that is actually red and not this pinkish hue you see.

Check out the other colors I'm working on below!


With any luck, these will be looking color-accurate and available soon - the way they work is you just plug them in over the recessed LED tip of the Night-Writer and viola! Multi-colored light-art.

Stargazing Spirits

Location: San Simeon, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light Art at F8, ISO 100, 552 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 Prototype Night-Writer

For me, this type of photo could not have been created merely a year ago.

I say this because in the last year I've started getting into compositing very high ISO star-shots along with my very low ISO light-art shots (always shot on location - it's a method I've outlined in this recent blog post).

Combine that with the development of a new light-pen (It's like turning B&W to color TV!) and you have the true holy-grail of technology and art - PROGRESSION.

Circle of Life

Location: Lizard's Mouth - Santa Barbara, CA / Settings: F9, ISO 100, 137 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

For the newest addition to my Skeletons gallery, I needed just the right spot - where could I find a 'pride rock' looking area?

Luckily, my sister lives fairly close to a popular bouldering area in Santa Barbara called Lizard's Mouth trail, leading up to a familiar-looking rock with a spectacular view of the California coast. It's a little less precarious as this similar viewpoint in San Diego that I used for my 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' post. 

Heard it through the grapevine

Location: Lompoc, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 100, 62 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

This is a Light-Morsel shot I've had in mind for a while. As some of these images are location-specific pieces, they require appropriate backgrounds.

I saw an opportunity when visiting my sister in Santa Barbara this weekend, about an hour North of where she lives, there are many great vineyards.

The nearly full moon was bright enough to act as stage lighting for this particular shot - it cast a steady glow from far above, just left of my light-grapes.

For good measure, here's a link to the title track by Marvin Gaye