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!

Welcome to Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

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

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

NSA Towers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking around in the dark here was especially treacherous. 

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

Title: A Noise in the Attic

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Thanks for reading, and stay bright!

 

 

The Rocky Mountains (Night)

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

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

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

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

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

Title: There's a Storm Coming

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

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

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

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

Title: Blue Hadrosaur

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

Title: Starcrossed Lovers

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

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

Astrobandit draws a pink dancing figure. Great form!

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

Superbloom

Location: Death Valley, CA

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Death Valley recently had a rare event called a 'super bloom', it happens about once every ten years and Astro Bandit and I decided to check it out over the weekend - it was mobbed, but it was beautiful. There weren't as many flowers as I was hoping for, but there were still quite a few along the highway to badwater basin and around furnace creek. We trekked it out to a few spots you might want to visit if you do plan on checking this out while it's still happening.

Here's a quick view from inside our car on the way there. High winds had kicked up a lot of sand from the dunes off highway 190, the motorcyclists had it the worst! The winds were averaging around 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph - terrible conditions for camping.

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Luckily, we checked out forecasts along the way there and it looked pretty favorable that the winds would die down by the evening, which they did for the most part. Here is Astro Bandit saying farewell to the storm.

You can see a sparse blanket of desert gold flowers along the base of the image above. Funny that it's called the 'desert gold flower', because the rainbow we saw on the way into the park definitely led us to believe we might find the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

We found our pot of gold :)

That night the winds kicked back up so we opted to sleep in the car rather than try to set up a tent in 25 mph winds (no thanks). Throughout the night, we listened to other campers shouting and yelling as their tents whipped and blew over from the strong wind gusts. I felt pretty good about our decision to not set up a tent.

At 3:30am, we woke up so that I could snap this image of the Milky Way over the mesquite dunes using my star-tracker tool that allows for much longer and clearer exposures of stars. The hike out there took about an hour and it was tough to navigate in near pitch black conditions. I'm glad we got to a decent spot before just the sun came up! You can see the sunrise start to fade in on the lower left of this image below:

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My camera settings for this exposure above were F2.8, ISO 1600, with a 78 second exposure time. I lit the dunes from frame left and right with a red/blue tipped Night-Writer.

While we were there, I added a rattlesnake to my Spirit Animals series just before dawn broke on the horizon. 

Good Morning Death Valley! Now it's time for some coffee.

Day 2

We did some exploring around badwater basin and found a weird hole in the ground that lead to what looks like part of an aquifer under all that salt! Crazy stuff (tap an image to see it large):

That night we went to the Artist's Palette, a colorful mountain in Death Valley formed by volcanic activity. If you visited this place in person, you'd say 'it looks photoshopped'.

Here it is at blue hour, just after sunset:

It's tough to compete against a background as colorful as this with a light-painting, but I was feeling this one because I've had this creature on my mind for a few weeks now.

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Don't let Looney Tunes and the Wile E. Coyote fool you, the greater roadrunner is also a vicious predator. Just look at the poor lizard in it's beak, or imagine it eating a rattlesnake (they do). These guys will eat almost anything smaller than them including snakes, lizards, tarantulas, black widows, scorpions and mice. It's easy to imagine them as evolutionary descendants of a dinosaur like the velociraptor.

Two Heart Tree

Location: Red Rock Canyon State Park | Settings: (Composite) Light Art at F5.6 / ISO 50 / 246 seconds / Stars at F2.8 / ISO 3200 / 15 seconds

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Here's a Valentine's Day post for all you lovebirds out there. I guess it's a day late at this point, but my internet line was out yesterday, so better late than never!

While on a recent camping trip to the Mojave Desert with some friends we stopped at this place called Red Rock Canyon State Park and I thought I'd try a few heart-themed pieces using my Night-Writer along with some Pink and Red Color-tips. You can see some orange glow from the campfire which was projected onto the cliffs behind the pink tree. 

It was a new moon, so you can see quite a few stars in the mix. We'll have to wait another Month or so for the Milky Way to be in full effect and have the Galaxy's core most visible.

The route to this location is a nice trip to take and a fairly close one to the outskirts of Los Angeles. Go North on the I-5, and about an hour down the 14 East into the Mojave desert. You'll pass the future Space Station of Virgin Galactic in Mojave, CA on your right and a newly constructed Solar effort on the left. Good use of space out there!

I started off this light-painting by doing a 3D-looking heart using my Ceramic technique where I circulate the LED in the air to form different sized light-masses. After a few hearts, I thought it looked a bit too plain, so I decided to spice it up a bit with a light-tree and a few growing hearts on the limbs.

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After looking at this image for a while, I begin to start thinking of adding on some leaves, maybe some birds to mix it up. That's the beauty of images - just looking at one gives you ideas for another!

Check out my Misc. Gallery below for more images that do not conform to any Collection at this point.. I'm thinking I may need to add a plant-life section soon: 

Window Shoppers

Location: Porter Ranch, CA | Settings: F8 / ISO 400 / 361 seconds

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Here's a collaboration I did with another Los Angeles based night-photographer, he goes by @xrissvlad on instagram and you can thank him for the perfect orb in the middle of this image. Peep his insta for another shot we collabed on that I'll write about later this week. I used Night-Writer along with a pink color-tip to illustrate the skeletons looking in from busted windows.

The main thing that stuck out about this night was the intense wind at this location, there was a high-wind advisory on some of the highway signs. It was strange because less than 20 minutes away towards downtown, the winds were quite calm. It goes to show what a varied landscape Los Angeles is, and how all sorts of micro climates can exist on the same day in nearby places.

The high winds were probably a good thing for this area in particular, as weird as that sounds. Porter Ranch is the area of Los Angeles that is the site of a massive methane leak from a failed well at Southern California Gas Co. Check out this aerial video of the leak. 

Now that I've vented (no pun intended) let's get back to the night at hand. This busted building was our best shot at a clear image, we needed a guard from the wind. It was so intense that our tripods would buckle with the passing gusts. I took a handheld long exposure on my phone using NightCap Pro app that turned out not that great, but will give you an idea of what this place looked like on the outside:

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I almost tripped over the spine of a deer or coyote walking around the interior, spooky stuff. Looks like a spine.

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To see more light skeletons, check out my full gallery below:

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:

Fun with Sculptures

Location: Borrego Springs, CA | Settings: F5.6, ISO 1600, 97 seconds

I've had this idea since last Spring, but never got a chance to carry out the series until last week.

Here are all three of my ideas on paper - it's good to sketch ideas out as soon as you have them, otherwise they disappear.

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It's funny how the sketch is often the idealist version, then in reality things change a bit.

For instance, my skeleton looks like he doesn't know what the hell he is doing with a pink sword in his hand. More concerned with the surprising color of his weapon than the imminent threat in front of him.

For the next image, Battle Beasts (which I've posted before last May) - there are subtle nuances that make it different than the sketch.

For instance, the horse sculptures being much larger than I was expecting. I brought a step-ladder to the location, but it didn't do me much good as the soft sand swallowed about 10 inches off it's height. 

The moral of this post is that life can and will throw you curveballs - so think on your feet and as Tim Gunn would say, 'Make it Work'.

To see the full collection of Light-Skeletons and wall-art options, check the print shop below:

Yurtles

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

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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: