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!

Best Photo Gear for Light-Painting Photography

Location: Earth

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Here's a similar buyer's guide list I did in Spring of last year. These are quick Amazon.com links and prices to the products I use already, or would buy if I was looking to upgrade. This list is intended for people looking for great products used in low-light photography.

1. Cameras:

Sony a7riii - $3,198 (body only) - Top dog among consumer mirrorless options, it has all the important features that pro/consumer photographers and video creators wanted - 4k video, great in low light, super dynamic range, and much better battery life than it's predecessor.

Nikon D850 - $3,296 (body only) - Top dog of the tried and true camera brands, top ratings also.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV - $3,200 (body only).

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II - $800 (body only).

Sony A6000 - $500 (with 16-50mm lens).

2. Lenses:

Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 - $1,696 - Big and heavy, but beautiful.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 - $1,700 - Good versatility.

Rokinon 14mm f2.8 (for Canon) - $189 - Cheap and good, what a combo!

3. Tripod:

Neewer 66in Carbon Fiber Tripod - $95 - Carries up to 26lbs.

4. LED Lights:

Night-Writer Kit - $65 - I use this for drawing detailed light-lines during a long exposure.

SOLARAY PRO ZX-1 - $50 - High power / rechargeable LED for casting light and getting a focus.

LED Filters & Adaptors - lightpaintingbrushes.com

 

Travel advice for night-photographers in Maui, Hawaii

Location: Maui, HI

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It's times like these that I wish I had a little drone to send up into the atmosphere and take a picture of this insane double rainbow from the sky's perspective with a very small and fast wide-angle lens to get the perfect full-circle rainbow.

I'll hang loose until then.. Welcome to Maui, you're on island time now! 

This is a land of comfortable temperatures for the most part, it was about 80-87 degrees whenever I looked at weather forecasts. It rained often and high winds affected the North side of the island more than the South. We traveled around the island extensively, taking the Hana highway, visiting the volcano atop Haleakala for sunrise, and hiking to countless waterfalls, and of course visiting lots of beaches with sands of white, red, and black.

Comfortable temperatures can change if you plan on visiting the top of Haleakala, the volcano that sits around 10,000 ft elevation and was about freezing temperature when we visited. It wasn't the low temperatures that got us there, it was the intense and biting wind chill!

That said, the views up there are basically perfect for astrophotography, on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean, above the clouds, and about as close as you can get to the stars without too much trouble breathing. Here I was able to capture the best meteor I've caught yet:

On the top of this volcano I felt as if I was on an island in space rather than just the Pacific. People come up here to see the sunrise, but the other stars are the best part for me!

If you plan on visiting Haleakala, definitely pack for the freezing temperatures and be sure to reserve a parking space at the top! This is a relatively new thing as of February 2017, and it helps with mitigating extreme crowds - they will turn you away at the entrance if you do not reserve a spot!

Ok, now let's talk animals.. At many of the beaches on Maui you might see sea turtles!

These are well documented in petroglyphs scratched into lava rock and on t-shirts and stickers all over the island. So I got a bit of inspiration from that and did my own light version at Ho'okipa beach, where we saw some turtles earlier that day. Cops kicked us out shortly after this image, the park closes after sunset.

Another small and interesting reptile that inhabits the island is the Gecko! This little friend will eat those pesky mosquitos and just about any other insect it can catch. They are fast little critters and can crawl almost anywhere because of the setae under their feet that allows them to hold onto most surfaces, unless the surface is wet! 

One of the more interesting geological structures we visited was a trail called 'Dragon's teeth' (Makaluapuna Point) - this was at the edge of a golf course in Lahaina. I thought a Spinosaurus light-fossil would be a good addition to this scene.

There's a few myths that are widely known around Hawaii, one of which is the 'Night-Marchers' - the story goes that if you are out hiking at night, and hear a conch shell sound in the distance followed by mysterious night-marchers holding torches, you should immediately lie on ground and not look at them. For if you look, they will kill you unless one of the spirits confirms that you are a native ancestor of their people. 

While I did not see any night-marchers on this trip, I was cursed by mosquitos trying to get this image above shot in Hana Bay.

I hope you've enjoyed island time, and some of the images I've illustrated with my Night-Writer light! Until next time, stay bright!

In the path of totality - Great American Eclipse - 2017

Location: Shaniko, OR

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This sort of opportunity only comes once in a great while and I was excited to see it happen in person! After following all the news reports, double checking the social-media accounts of well known Oregon-based photographers, doing calculations on Nasa's eclipse-app, as well as checking traffic reports, closures and warnings from Oregon Dept of Transportation, we finally decided to hop off the fence here in Southern California and just go for it!

Astrobandit and I drove 12 hours North to Madras, Oregon starting at 6am. The goal was to be in the middle of the totality path for the 2017 August 21st Solar Eclipse.

Once we got there, it was so packed full of people that we got a bit claustrophobic and decided to go to an area a half hour North but still inside the Totality zone, a little place that I'd been to once before on a roadtrip to a music festival back in 2011, a small historic-looking western town called 'Shaniko'. Here's what it looked like to me nearly 7 years ago during a delirious (we drove all night) yet magic sunrise:

When we arrived at 9pm on August 20th, the small ghost town was in full-on party mode. There was a band playing in the middle of the historic buildings and people dancing in the streets. People were camped out by the old rusted automobiles and it seemed like everyone was having a really great time. I stayed up to snap this pano of the old barn with the Milky Way above it. It felt like the completion of a circle:

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That night we slept in our car and woke up to what must have been thousands more that had arrived in the middle of the night or perhaps early that morning. The people parked next to us had driven from Washington and the people next to them had flown in from Japan! The general mood was filled with anticipation and a common sense of purpose, everyone was really nice to each other! It was a beautiful thing to witness in person because all I've read in the news recently is doom and gloom, this was the exact opposite of that!

At 10:20am is when it began, not that either of us could see the transition much.. We had opted not to get solar glasses - this was a pretty glaring mistake in the transitional phases of the eclipse, but I figured the most important part was the totality.

Here's a video I recorded on my phone (and a few other cameras) of the totality happening, one of the things that was a little unexpected was how much the temperature changed during totality, it must have dropped 20-30 degrees in just a few minutes! Also, it produced an incredible 360 degree sunset!

'Wow' pretty much sums it up:

Here are some of my favorite images we captured of the eclipse, I was trying to take some long-exposures to get stars in the background but that proved totally impossible because the sun was still so bright behind the moon!

I've listed the cameras used to shoot the various images below - iPhone 7 Plus, Canon 6D with 70mm lens + UV filter, Canon 7D with 300mm lens plus 10-stop ND filter, and a Sony A6000 with 200mm lens:

The traffic exiting Madras, Oregon was some of the worst I've ever experienced - historic for sure.

Bottlenecking everywhere due to all the 2 lane roads and massive camps of people all leaving at the same time. Add on a few small towns in the middle with a few traffic lights that were not designed to accommodate millions of people and we were looking at about 10hrs of 2mph traffic from Madras to La Pine - a terrible price to pay but an surreal experience I'll never forget.

Thanks for reading! If you'd like to see more nature related imagery, check out my landscapes gallery here!

Red, Light, and Blue

Location: Los Padres National Forest, CA

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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. 

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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).

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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!

Flipping Out

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

See more in  animation / licensing  collection

See more in animation / licensing collection

It's good to try new things, so I brought a step-ladder with me on my most recent night mission during the last full moon.

The few extra steps gave me enough height to animate my red light-skeleton running up the walls ala Gene Kelly from 'Singing In The Rain'. 

I used a remote controlled color-changing 'LED Pod' to color the shadowed areas blue and a Night-Writer with red color-tip for the skeleton character. 

For these type of time and energy dependent projects it helps to have a well defined process and stick to it through the length of the shoot, otherwise the animation will never get done. You've got to find your groove.

Mine was roughly 3 seconds of blue light exposure from the 'LED-Pod', and then drawing out the skeleton while the full moon illuminated the background, each long exposure frame was about 150 seconds.

Here's a kinetic blend of the different drawings together:

kinetic LP

Here's a quick GoPro time-lapse of the process:

The next image was a special one for my Mother, it was Mother's Day after all.

Here's a 'Mama Bear and Cubs' walking along a fallen tree under the full moon.

Mama Bear

Thanks for reading and stay bright light fam!

Man On Fire

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

See more in the  Animation / Licensing  collection.

See more in the Animation / Licensing collection.

The other night I checked out a nearby spot that has a burned down section of the forest. A stark reminder of what can happen over the Summer when the weather is hot, dry, and windy.

This must have happened a handful of years back, you can see smaller growth making a comeback but it could be many more years until we see trees here again.

burned forest

Here's a blend I did of all the frames in the animation above so you can see the frame by frames. The steps are a little wonky, but hey - he's on fire! Fire effect produced with red El Tape.

stack

The next light-art challenge is a different type of photo-merge. This one is done in-camera during a long-exposure. It's essentially a double exposure using the lens-cap and two tripods. 

Light-painters call it the 'Lens-cap Trick'.

The best way to accomplish this 'Lens-cap Trick' yourself is to have two tripods with the same quick-release plate, that way you can quickly set up different positions and remove the camera and set it up easily on another, just remember to cap your lens while you move the camera from one location to the next and re-adjust your focus each time.

If you're in the market for a killer tripod that won't break the bank, check out this lightweight and ridiculously strong Pro-series 'Dolica' Carbon Fiber Tripod for about $100. I've been using the same model for the past year or so and I am thinking of getting another soon - for this price it can't really be beat! Other carbon fiber tripods can cost 5x the price!

Back to the 'Lens-cap Trick', first set up the tripods in two different locations, I chose one up close to a fireplace (close focus) and another further away from the camera to draw the heart (long focus).

The idea is to line up the two separate compositions so that they are relatively seamless and look like one surreal photograph. It requires getting the exposure accurate and in focus for both composites - this takes a bit of trial and error to get just right - you have to remember the focal length for each exposure.

I recommend getting a good shot of the plate first, then trying the light-art until it's lined-up correctly separately, after these are both dialed in, then go for the make of both. Here are my practice shots, I try expose a little darker so that the blend works out:

stove

Sometimes it's the simple things that are most difficult! This heart took quite a few tries to get just right, but now I have a sweet burning heart .gif:

heart on fire

Here is my end result:

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After the make, I wanted to try another more ambitious shot where I set the tripod up outside in my backyard by an interesting V-shaped tree.

For the image below it was more like 3 exposures - First I exposed the stove (lit w bare Night-Writer), then I capped the lens and started a small fire in the stove. Next, I took the lens cap off to expose the flames (2nd exposure) and capped it after the fire had burned a bit. Lastly, I moved the camera to the outside where I refocused and exposed for the 3rd time toward the 'V-shaped' tree in my backyard and drew in the light-skeleton with a clear-tipped Night-Writer

Give it a try the next time you're in the right place for it!

The 'Lens-cap Trick' is one of the more advanced techniques for light-art and takes a bit longer to master than almost any other kind of shot, so please be patient and give yourself plenty of time to try and fail... If you don't give up, you will eventually succeed. Stay Bright!

Joshua Tree at Night

Location: Joshua Tree National Park - Joshua Tree, CA

During this time of year in Joshua Tree the temperatures can drop dramatically at night, the higher elevation (around 2700 ft) certainly adds to this effect. It can be 60 degrees during the day and 30 degrees once the sun goes down, make sure you pack a good jacket and layer-up if you plan to visit. 

For the photograph above 'Stand Tall', I used a new light tool I made especially for taller creations. For scale, the left skeleton is about 6 feet tall and the right one is about nine to ten feet tall. I used an old antenna, an LED and single wire to create an extendable light source I could draw with. Later I wrapped it in clear fishing line for a more diffused look:

Sunrise and sunsets create vibrant transitional colors in the sky, and at night the backdrop of space itself appears bright and unobstructed by city lights in the distance. 

The occasional passing car lights define narrow paths cut through the park, highlighting mounds of giant boulders.

setting up the shootout

Here I am setting up the next shot, I wanted a western shootout look with one character in the foreground and another far off in the background eating lead.

I was hoping to get a bit of that fading sunset color in the shot.

You can get a feel for about how much time went by taking a look at the length of the star trails. The 'Midnight Showdown' scene (below) took 370 seconds:

Later that night we headed to a really cool place called Cactus Moon Retreat, and I drew a cactus and moon in one of my favorite rooms in the property using my newly designed jumbo Night-Writer tips.

cactus moon

Here's a sneak peak at what some new modular (and larger) color-tips look like up close, I plan on making these available soon but need to fix a few minor things about the way they clasp together first.

Here's a short GoPro video I captured while trying to create the images in this post, hopefully it gives you a good idea of what making light-drawings is all about.

We'll finish this post with the 'Devil you Know', made with a red modular tip and a really bright white LED to create some flares over the eyes.

Click Here for more articles on Joshua Tree, CA.

 

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.

smiley

China

Location: Longhushan, China

'Tiger & Dragon' (above) is the result of a large collaboration with a team of international artists at one of many ancient temples in Longhushan - Jiangxi Province, China. 

Before getting into our story, let's introduce the cast: Sergey (Head of LPWA from Moscow, Russia), Lichtfactor (German LP collective), Alfredo (Children of Darklight - Spain), Mass (LP art from France), Sfhir (Multi-media artist from Madrid, Spain), Roy Wang (LP Artist from Beijing, China), Diliz (France), Ivan (Spain), Nacho (Spain), Edu (Spain), Ramon (Spain), and of course my Fiance Astrobandit (USA).

Many sleepless nights in the rain to accomplish this special long exposure photograph (above). A 10 meter tall platform was built just to get this angle.

Our story starts in Shanghai where we all flew in from our home countries of Russia, Germany, USA, France, Spain and China. All of us took a bullet train 3 hours South to Longhushan only to be greeted with a large Typhoon for the next four days.

We were hoping to take some photos at night but sometimes the environment does not cooperate!

typhoon

Here is our light-painting group scouting the location with umbrellas and rain boots on. We're all here for a massive LPWA collaboration (Light Painting World Alliance) to be done in a few nights, if the weather allows it!

Of course I took my trusty Night-Writer along for the journey, I rarely leave home without it these days. It got wet quite a bit during my time in China, but functioned well in most trying of circumstances.

It wasn't like the rain in the West that I was used to, the humidity was high all the time, as was the temperature - I wore tank tops and shorts most of the time in China.

Here is Sergey (below), the main man behind LPWA (Light Painting World Alliance) - standing in about a half inch of water inside the ancient temple walls.

The purpose of our trip was a 2 part operation, the first was a large light painting photo exhibition and presentation in the city of Longhushan (see gallery below), and the second was to create an animation and large scale photo collaboration that would represent the location.

Longhushan literally translates to 'Dragon (&) Tiger Mountain', it's the birthplace of Taoism in China and you can feel this location has a rich history by walking around in it.

Below you can see the animation our international team made over the course of two nights:

For me, it was the similarities and differences in both geology and culture that made this place interesting, the ancient temples and pathways gave a feel of the past that was also connected to the present.

Yin and Yang was the most powerful and prolific symbol we encountered during our trip, the group would see it everywhere as a constant reminder of balance, mostly between chaos and order for us.

Somehow everything came together at the last possible moment every step of the way during our journey, it was intense and inspiring.

I like this image of Astrobandit that I shot in the ancient city inside the middle of the national park, it candidly captures what it was like to be there at that moment.

I think most of the natives were shocked to see a blonde-haired person, it was as if they had seen a unicorn.

Now let's zoom in to those Fu Dogs outside that temple (above). These were made of stone and inside the mouths of these statues were orbs of stone that you could not remove. Imagine the craftsmanship! 

Here my friend (and killer artist) Mass tries to remove one of the stones, not possible.

Here are some of my favorite phone images (shot by myself and others from the trip) in a massive gallery below. 

It was a shared experience I won't forget and I made some great friends along the way. It's hard to explain what this kind of traveling means to me - it speaks to an understanding of life itself.

During most of the trip the underlying theme was simple - NO SLEEP. Here we are after dinner, most of us had not slept in 48 hours, the bags under our eyes doubled and tripled:

Even though I barely managed to sleep, there were some great images I was able to capture in China, here are my favorites below:

Title: Temple of Light / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Temple of T Rex / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Chinese Nessie / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Shanghai / Location: Shanghai, China / View large + print options

Along with the images, I got some animations along one of the hikes in the national park of Longhushan.

'Coffin Rider' (below) tells a story about the historical and precarious cultural practice of wrapping the dead in bamboo coffins and placing them inside the small naturally occurring caves within the mountain.

For my story I wanted to show one of the mountain inhabitants breaking out for a midnight joyride on a piece of the coffin and riding it like a skateboard down the handrail and along the hiking path. I thought this would be a good demonstration of balance, it made sense to me with all the Yin & Yang symbols we had seen around this location:

Some say Shiny Bones is still sliding that rail to this day.. Stay bright light-friends!

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.

Print Options

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.

Print Options

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. 

Print Options

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!

 

 

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.

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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!  

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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. 

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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.

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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!

Eastern Sierras

Location: Mono County, CA

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Here we are at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the elevation here is around 7600 ft and it gets a bit cold at night. I had this place in mind for a few months, the last time we visited it was too cold to get in the water, but on this night the conditions were just right!

Upon arriving at the camping spot, our neighbor alerted us to the fact that there was a large black bear mere feet away and that we should immediately put all our food in the bear box, so we did right away!

We heard the snapping of large branches on the ground and bush-shaking noises for a bit. After speaking with the rangers we learned that they have a local bear that weighs about 700 lbs and likes to investigate any smell of food. They told us not to have food in our tents because the bear was not shy about poking his head in to grab a bite!

deer

Here's a deer on the outskirts of the lake, it pulled the 'deer in headlights' look long enough for me to snap this long exposure with some stars.

The next day we took an off road trip to Lake Crowley and checked out these strange formations I really wanted to see in person. There was a 2015 LA Times article about how they were formed that you can read HERE. Something to do with hot volcanic steam & ash mixing with cold waters above. Be advised that if you try to see this for yourself, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to get there.

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Here's another view from inside the Crowley Columns. 

crowleyspires_DT.jpg

It was blazing hot out there so we took a few umbrellas with us to block some of the sun. It was nice to cool off a bit on the walk back by stepping into the lake. Look at those sun rays!

lake walker

One of the more disgusting aspects of this location was all the fossilized maggots in the rock.

After an adventurous ride back, we made our way to Mono Lake for sunset. The yellow road out there looked really nice at golden hour.

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I brought my trusty Night-Writer with me to take a few glamour shots. Here I am levitating it with THE FORCE!

Look at that sunset!

sunset at mono lake

One more glamour shot for good measure, the pink light was too nice. 

Back at the camping spot we made a small fire and I did a short circle around the fire pit to create this looping gif. It might make you dizzy..

campfire

I pulled a late night mission to do a few other images in Owens Valley area and came away with this group of Quails walking across the road.

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Around this time, it was about 3am and I was starting to get a bit delirious from lack of sleep.. Which is when the best stuff happens!

I really let this last shot rip.. It's actually 33 images in one! 32 for the Panorama of the environment and 1 for the light-painted skeletons. Very happy with the way this crazy image came together, I mirrored it bc I thought it looked great as a circle.

Title: Bigger Than Us

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That's all for now, if you liked these images, do check out my light-art archive for the full collection and print purchasing options. 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!

chillmode

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.

The Rocky Mountains (Day)

Locations: Denver, Boulder, Estes Park, Rocky Mountains - Colorado

The image above was taken inside Rocky Mountain National Park, in the Alpine Tundra region. Here at over 12,000 feet elevation you'll find a unique landscape, totally devoid of trees with interesting geology and alpine animals.

The ground up here is different, littered with crystals and small plants that survive temperatures below freezing for at least 5 months of the year.

Above, a sign that explains how some of the landscape formed during the last Ice Age.

Let's take a quick tour of Rocky Mountain National Park:

Below I've put together a short selection of iPhone shots that will give you a short guided tour of Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: 

Now we'll segway into the night images - click RIGHT HERE to check out the park at night!

San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, CA

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Before we get started on this set of images, let's drop the digital needle on this track:

Here we are in San Francisco, on a dock looking out toward the Bay Bridge with it's sparkly animated LED light-installation in full effect. 

I made my own light-show to go along with it on the rail of the popular tourist destination, and answered some camera gear questions from a few curious people passing by. My light-pelican is a more colorful variety of what you might find on just about any pier in California. This location was a tough place to take long exposures due to all the foot traffic, but how can you go wrong with that view!

After a failed attempt at another scenic viewpoint, this option was a great plan B to capture sunset into blue hour without too much fog rolling in. Thanks to Michael Shainblum for the spotcheck.

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Larry Lumen waves a bright 'hello' to Pokemon Go players as he walks a narrow line down the handrail of the pier.

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From the pier you can see the historic ferry building across from the embarcadero, it contrasts from the newer skyscrapers behind it. I did a little camera-trickery for this long exposure with a slow zoom and hold. 

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Did I mention how many Pokemon Go players were out and about? I couldn't help but be influenced by the cultural phenomenon I was caught up in. Here's a Pikachu in the middle of the Embarcadero.

I was told to be on guard due to the amount of theft that happens in the city at night, camera gear is an easy target so I don't recommend hanging around the same location for too long. Crime in the city is a big problem, if you leave stuff in your car, don't be surprised when you come back to it with a broken window and your personal belongings missing. This has actually happened to entire blocks of cars parked on the street, it gets pretty crazy!

The crime problem is not something that you'd know if you were to visit, so let this be your warning! 

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Here we are at Baker Beach, buried alive but with a killer view of the Golden Gate bridge. This view is just south of the bridge so you don't have to pay the toll to cross unless you miss the exit (make sure you don't). 

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I'll end this post with another classic view of San Francisco I took years ago from the North side of the Golden Gate bridge. I will say that this night was unusually clear! It's almost always fogged in and you have to pay the toll to cross, so try and time it just right. This image was taken at Battery Spencer - a short hike from parking at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. Stay Bright!

Goblin Valley

Location: Goblin Valley, Utah

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There's a place in Utah that looks like a Goblin kingdom due to its unique concentration of strange geological features called 'Hoodoos'.

Astrobandit and I took a road trip there recently (and other incredible locations that you will see soon). Here's a short vid I shot on my phone of us seeing it on arrival. This will give you a sense of space and how easy you could get lost in this weird and awesome place:

My LED tool of choice for the evening - the eldest current model of my Night-Writer, practically polished from use, basking in the last rays of light. Later I would lose this Night-Writer for the rest of the trip only to discover it in a bag weeks later. Thankfully, I always pack a few when I travel!

Here are some of the images I got the chance to light-paint during our night at Goblin Valley.

Let's start with introductions, say hello to Harry, Larry and Jerry:

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Delving deeper into the Goblin Kingdom, I brought out my old (Canon A-1) 35mm film camera for another light-painting featuring some Goblins. I call this one 'Goblin Slayer'. It would make a cool video game I think:

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I love the dynamic range of film! Look at that glow around the light-lines, and the way that light hits the rocks around our characters. 

I feel like the SOOC movement (straight out of camera photographers) should only shoot film if they are concerned with the purity of an image, for film by nature does not lie and cannot be manipulated in the way that digital can. It has a negative for record so you can see for a fact that it was unedited. Otherwise it's just one photographer's word against anothers.

After a bit of exploring in the dark, Astrobandit and I definitely got lost. With a new moon on a cloudy night, it was hard not to get lost in this goblin-riddled labyrinth! Luckily, after a few long exposures at high ISO in different directions, I made out the shape of a shade structure overlooking the valley. This gave me some insight as to where the hell we were in this massive Hoodoo labyrinth.

The next image I wanted to create was one with a caterpillar in it. I thought the hoodoos looked like mushrooms anyways, so it was a clear choice:

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The clouds parted briefly so I could get some stars in my image! Really happy with the way this one turned out :D

I lit the mushroom hoodoo by using a red LED light and my hand to block the lower portion of the light so that it only hit the top part of the rock. It took a few tries to get it just right!

Next up is a little NSFW but I thought it was funny, I'll end this post with a light-painted dick pic using a particularly phallic part of the environment:

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That's all for now, check back in a few days for a Southwestern light-tour update! Shine bright friends.

Dark Skies of Borrego Springs

Location: Borrego Springs, CA

dark skies

On a new moon, the best place to see the stars is in an area away from city lights. I saw a recent photo from NASA that really helps put light-pollution in perspective here:

Looks like we have it pretty good on the West Coast! East Coast is densely lit up! Just seems more developed than other areas. Here's an animated view of the globe, find your respective area and see how it compares with the rest of the world:

For me, one of the better spots to visit is a place called Borrego Springs, out in the desert on the fringe of San Diego County. I drew an alien face to circle the spot these images (below) were taken. You can find an interactive dark sky map right here if you'd like to do a bit of research yourself.

On a clear night in Borrego Springs, you can see the Milky Way Galaxy with your naked eyes. It looks like a smoky cloud that follows an arc across the sky and is most visible from May to August in the Northern Hemisphere . The Milky Way is normally faint compared to the image at the top of this post, but if you set your camera at F2.8, ISO 6400 for about 15 seconds, you will see some interesting features appear!

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Another remarkable attraction to Borrego Springs is the metal sculptures around Galleta Meadows built by sculpture artist Ricardo Brecceda. For this elephant looking sculpture, I did my best impression of how an extraterrestrial greeting might go.

Here's a hand drawn map to find most of the sculptures in Borrego Springs. Be warned that the map is not to scale, it helps to look at satellite view on your phone for a general reference. Click the image for full scale, and perhaps save it to your phone if you're out and about!

falcon grab

Falcon Grab

For this image (above), I photoshopped out the wires and supports that normally hold this massive structure upright. I could see why they were all there when the wind picked up!

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We'll end this post with a young gomphotherium sculpture I lit using my Night-Writer under a very bright Milky Way. Thanks for reading!

Light-Painting Buyers Guide - May 2016

Today I'm outlining my buyers guide to some of the best and most important items for long exposure and light-painting photography along with a link list. 

gear list

Here are my current best picks for quality & price along with links to buy through Amazon.com below (this is mostly for the US due to Amazon Prime's shipping service), keep in mind that my own photos are done with a Canon 6D, but that is not the number one camera that I recommend due to the photos I've seen from other photographers that I follow and the images that they are producing:

1. Tripod - This is almost more important than the camera itself and will likely outlive the camera in terms of updating technology. A good tripod can last almost forever, a cheap one only lasts about a year if you're lucky, and may destroy your camera if you're not careful with weight distribution.

If I had to choose one for today, I'd go with a carbon fiber model with about 60" of height like this one by Manfrotto that runs around $300.

If I was to go for something around $100, I'd roll with something like this 60" carbon fiber tripod by Dolica w ball-head and aluminum central. Both of these look like great options for long-lasting photo equipment.

2. Camera - You'll probably want a killer sensor on a full frame model. My best picks for 2016 are the new kids on the block - a Sony A7Rii and A7Sii (bundle link) mirrorless cameras because they are killing the dynamic range game.

Runners up are Canon 5D Mk iii, Canon 6D, and the Nikon D500. These are tried and true mechanics that are still great options.

3. Lenses - You'll want a wide lens for the stars if you intend to capture the galaxy above us or just be able to fit everything in a tight space. I recommend the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 (Link to Canon Model), or Samyang 14mm F2.8. One thing I have to add here is that these particular lenses will not auto-focus, you have to focus them manually.

In addition to the wide, it's good to have some range in terms of zooming in on a subject, that's why I find myself using the 24-70mm F2.8 L-series from Canon.

You could also get a 24-70mm F2.8 Sigma lens that does about the same for about $1k less.

3a. Lens Adaptor - If you have a lens kit already with Canon and you're switching to a Sony model, you should probably have this Metabones adaptor so your expensive kit isn't useless on your killer new camera.

4. Camera Remote - Because you'll be shooting in 'bulb mode', you'll want a remote to trigger the camera's shutter (open/close) in the dark. I use this one for my Canon DSLR but there are a host of other options for around the same price for other camera manufacturers.

5. Camera Bag - If you're looking for a good 'carry all the things I need' kind of bag you can take on hiking trips, this bag by Lowepro will do the trick, at $119 it's moderately priced and will probably last for a good 5 years or more. 

On the budget-packs side, this AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras looks decent, and for $30 you could buy 4 of them for the price of one Lowepro bag.

6. Light-Painting LEDs - If you want to seriously draw with lights, I recommend using Night-Writer because I personally designed it for doing just this! It's a precision LED illustration tool that's great for detailed work like skeletal creatures, built with solid ergonomics that just 'feel right'. 

If you're just starting out with light-painting and seeing if you like it, I recommend starting out with a few cheap LED keychains like these ones. The momentary push-button switch is the most important feature to look for.

If you've already been light-painting and you're into large color-filtered brushes and interesting effects and adaptors for current LED lights you already own, Light-Painting Brushes is a great resource for novice to pro light-painters.

7. Headlamp - If you're going to shoot anything good, you usually have to get to it in the dark first. Here's a decent headlamp (165 lumens) at $15 with a lifetime warranty, you really can't go wrong.

8. High-powered directional LED - Here's a small cheap one for $10. If you want a better build quality and rechargeability, I'd go with this one for $65, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

9. Color Filters - This is a must for anyone that wants to use that high-powered directional light I just mentioned to light-paint with. This Roscolux Swatchbook comes with just about every color filter you could imagine. For $6, it's definitely worth having in your bag.

For more info on the details and methods of light-painting photography, please see the dariustwin.com/edu page.