Red, Light, and Blue

Location: Los Padres National Forest, CA

america_future_american_flag_july_4th_independence_day_holiday_national_patriot_usa.jpg

Here's my rendition of the American Flag done with light-painting shortly after sunset, to view large click here.

Camera Settings: 94 seconds / ISO 250 / F 7.1

I used this rusty barbed-wire gate as a template of sorts, it took a few tries to get it right. You can see what I mean in animated .gif below. At first, my Night-Writer light was not bright enough to compete with the recent sunset, but over time it dimmed and I was able to get something I liked. 

america_american_flag_july_4th_dariustwin_animated_process_light-painting.jpg

For this image I used a newly designed 'Pyramid' color-tip. This custom design was Red, White, and Blue for July 4th. America's 'Independence Day'.

For each color in the flag, I rotated this new tip design at a slightly different angle toward the camera lens. I experimented with different speeds of light-drawing also, at first I would move in slow motion with the light, toward the end I began speeding up to balance the light-drawing brightness with the environment. You can see some of the stars come out illustrating how dark it became toward the end of the animated .gif (above).

pyramid-tip_color_tip_night-writer_light_painting_photography.jpg

Astrobandit and I watched the fireworks in Ventura, CA this year. I wasn't feeling the idea of lugging around a tripod and camera gear, so I opted to use my phone as the camera of choice for this particular occasion.

Here are some images I took of the fireworks using an 'iPhone 7 Plus' and NightCap Pro App. I held the phone steady on my knee (in place of a tripod) for a second or so while the camera captured colorful streaks of each big bang!

The colors aren't perfect, as you can see in way the sensor picks up red colors, but overall I thought 'not bad' for a little pocket camera!

Night-Writer Lineage

Location: Los Angeles & Pine Mountain, CA

night-writer_history_lineage_prototypes_LED_lightpainting_photography_DIY_art_building_create.jpg

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!

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.

Night-photography in the Valley of Fire

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.

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.

Print Options

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!  

Print Options

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. 

Print Options

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.

Print Options

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!

Bayou Country

Location: Caddo Lake, TX

Print Options

Here we are at Caddo Lake in Uncertain Texas. It's an uncertain kind of a place and you can see that on my light-skeleton faces, being on the border of Texas and Louisiana, it's easy to get confused. You can hear strange bird calls in the distance, frogs croaking, and the occasional catfish swishing about. There might be alligators depending on when you visit, and there are a few venomous snakes to look out for, namely copperheads and water moccasins.

Water moccasins are excellent swimmers, and yes, I was a bit nervous about those while taking this picture, those along with the alligators.

Earlier that day, Astro Bandit and I did a few walks around the lake to check out the whole area for possible locations. I thought this opening in the cypress grove was a great spot to get an overview of the bayou. The next day we hopped in a canoe you can rent at the ranger station and took a tour of the wetlands. Here's a short video for ya:

There are a few interesting things about this area in terms of cryptozoology, and it's easy to imagine how a large animal might live in this bizarre area. Some say there is a swamp-bigfoot, or you might say a North American Wood Ape that lives around the area. Here is one such report from a hunter who was on private property around the area of Caddo Lake when the sighting occurred.

All I could think of was the old horror posters for Swamp Thing, so naturally I took to the docks that night and did what I usually do in these inspiring situations.

To finish off the night, I put a pair of recently acquired waders on and got into the swamp to test out a water-proofed prototype of my Night-Writer. I've been trying to add on different animals to my Spirit Animals series, and I haven't caught an Alligator until now, I'm very happy with the way it's eye aligned:

Print Options

It was a strange and eerie feeling being in the swamp, the stench of the still water combined with the fear or water-moccasins and an occasional fish brushing up against your leg was unnerving to say the least.

How to Light-paint with an iPhone

Here's a how-to post for anyone that's not sure about buying an expensive DSLR camera, but still wants to experiment with light-painting and night-photography.

Don't believe you can shoot a decent light-painting image with a cellphone? Check out this gallery of images I've collected over the past few months - I'm pretty happy with them! Shot using an iPhone 6 and 6s Plus along with the Night-Writer & various Color-tips as the light-source:

To shoot these type of images you have to be totally dialed in! It takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it - it's a great option to have on hand when you don't happen to have a DSLR handy!

Step One: Download the Right App

I used Night Cap Pro to shoot these images, but there are other good options like Slow-Shutter app.

Step Two: Dial it In

The right app settings are crucial to pulling this off! 

Here is a cheat-sheet for Light-painting with NightCap Pro:

1. Start off with selecting 'light trails' - tap the star icon on the right to toggle this option.

2. Just above the star is a lock button for once you get your settings down - don't do it yet, but just know it's there and that the green light should be on for at least 'FOC (focus)' and 'EXP (exposure)' options before you start your shot. 'WB (white balance)' is not something I used very often - I think it's set to 'auto' if you do nothing, which looks fine.

3. Adjust the exposure setting by sliding your thumb up on the right side of the viewer - I go with 1/2 - do this unless you want your light-lines to be dotted (no thanks!).

4. Set your ISO - I went with 50, but I've tried higher - 400 is ok, but it starts to get pretty noisy after 800.

5. Set your focus using the bottom slide-toggle - '0' is for super-macro stuff while I'd assume '100' would be for far away star-trails. I usually go with something from 69-75 - this is good for that 35mm look that most of us are familiar shooting with.

Step Three: Steady as She Goes

Please know that the camera has to be totally still while the long-exposure is happening! So use a tripod. If you don't have one handy - a coffee mug on a table will suffice (the dude abides): 

coffee mug tripod

Now that you've got your settings locked (Exp + Foc have green dots) you are ready to start your light-painting! Tap the large button to start (it turns red when on) and tap it again once you are finished with your light-art.

Step Four: iPhone Presets

Turn your Auto-Lock off. You don't want your camera shutting down during the middle of your light-painting, right?

Here's how you do it: Go to 'Settings', select 'General', select 'Auto-Lock' - switch to 'Never'.

Bonus Tip: Dim that light-source for best results!

My first results light-painting with the iphone were pretty dismal - I found out quickly that the bare Night-Writer light was too bright for the lens. I tried diffusing the LED with a crumpled-up receipt which resulted in more balanced exposures. Color-Tips worked great for diffusing the light also.  

The reason you need a fairly dim light-source is because your phone has a tiny lens, with a tiny sensor, and mostly automatic features - like what aperture to use when shooting in dark environments.

You're best option to get a well-balanced exposure is to control the brightness of your light-source. Bright light is great for casting toward environments, but not for using toward the lens (light-writing).

A good rule of thumb: If you can glance at the light without hurting your eyes, so can the camera.

Check out the video tutorial below:

More tips and tricks for light-art photography can be found in the EDU section.

 

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:

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.

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:

Mammoth in Tundra

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO / Settings: F.14, ISO 100, 250 seconds

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

On a recent trip out to Denver Colorado, Astrobandit and I took the short drive out to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The views were wild and beautiful everywhere we looked, but I took special note of the Tundra section of the park - an area of extremely high elevation, unique flora, and very cold temperatures at night (even during the summer months).

For this spot, I wanted to try another light-fossil - I've been on a rainbow-skeleton kick lately and needed a Mammoth in the mix. At around 40 degrees just after sunset with nothing more than a long sleeved shirt, I was happy to get this one first try - the next attempt resulted in a dying battery to my prototype light-pen. 

Staying in Denver was awesome, I was surprised how many great breweries were out there, we had an incredible sour beer that used a colorful sticker-label on blank cans that looked a lot like the cover to this old nintendo T&C surf game:

Special thanks to Jerrico and Michael for letting us stay with them, we will have to visit again in another month or so to see the changing color of leaves - the alpine trees can really give you a show.

I took this last shot at sunrise from the City Park. Another location for my Postcard Project series.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Location: Alabama Hills, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F16-F4, ISO 400 571 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer with Red and Blue Color-tips.

This image was captured as the clouds rolled in - the skies are incredible out here, especially under a new moon. Too bad this was my only glimpse of them!

As you can see from the exposure time of 571 seconds, climbing rocks in the dark is not easy task - It's an easy way to break your neck, ankle, or anything else you can think of.

Slow and steady may not win the race here, but you can still manage to try again tomorrow with this technique - a sure foot beats a hasty one.

I found the Alabama Hills to be a perfect spot for my between a rock and a hard place light-illustration - I often feel this way when trying to tackle too many projects at once and having all my financial burdens come to a head at the end of the month :P

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!

bat-trails

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.

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.

Ruins of Riverside Dr.

Location: Riverside Dr. - Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F8, ISO 100, 347 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

I wanted to test out my new color tips at a location where I knew there would be a lot of ambient light - in Los Angeles, that is pretty much anywhere.

This is a place I drive by on a regular basis but rarely stop at - Ruins of Riverside Dr. - newest addition to the light-skeletons gallery.

Light-paint a skeleton (step by step tutorial vid)

Location: Mt. Pinos - Frazier Park, CA

Here it is, a little how-to video on the subject of light-skeletons - I've been asked, and the idea of other people illustrating their very own skeletons with light makes me pretty damn amped!

Good luck out there with your creations! Please share them with me if you think you've got a good one - If you're on instagram, you can tag me @dariustwin - otherwise, email works ok too.

To learn more about light-art photography, you can visit my new EDU page devoted toward 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!

color-tips

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.

Blowing off steam

Location: Columbia, MO / Settings: F8, ISO 100, 138 seconds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

This night had a very bright full moon and I wanted to take advantage of steam generated from this nearby power-plant, so I walked down a path by the creek until the moon was hiding just behind all the steam.

The vacant bench with steam above had to have the Lionel Richie pose

In other news, I've updated stock for the Night-Writer light-pen (the LED tool I used to illustrate the photo above).