35mm Light-paintings

Location: Southwestern US

Title: Reflecting on a Sad Memory // Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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I've recently developed a roll of 35mm which I brought with me on a trip through the Southwestern US and some areas of the California Coast. 

I often keep a camera loaded with a roll of Portra 400 ISO in my bag and take it out on just the right occasions. It costs a few dollars per image just to get this thing developed and scanned, so I'm a bit conservative when it comes to shooting.

Usually, I take the 36 images per roll over a few months and by the time I actually fill it with long exposures, I've forgotten most of what I had captured to begin with. I like the surprise of it all, and you truly have no idea what you've captured for months. It's a very un-attached way of capturing images, and as I've mentioned before, the negatives for film do not lie in the way that digital photographs can (ie: photoshopping).

For this roll, it worked out very well. I'll tally this up to beginner's luck due to my first time shooting with the late 70's era Canon A-1 and it's 50mm lens, which produced some interesting reflections with the LED light entering and bouncing out of the camera. Overall, I really like the aesthetic and it brings a more organic feel to the media. The colors seem to seep into other tones and it gives the content another layer of character.

Title: Amethyst Dinosaur // Location: Dead Horse Point, UT

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For the shot above I mixed it up a bit and used a small Amethyst crystal that we bought at a rock shop in Moab, Utah in place of a color-tip for my Night-Writer. It had some strange and unintended color-effects on the landscape, taking blue hour straight into purple hour! The view at Dead Horse Point close to the entrance to Canyonlands National Park was an incredible backdrop to see in person, inspiring for sure!

Title: Endless Grind // Location: Monument Valley, UT

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I saw that handrail leading into the valley and couldn't get this image of a skateboarding skeleton grinding it out of my head.

The last rays of light were hitting the rail in an interesting way, highlighting the metal edge all the way into the distance through twists, turns, and kinks. Toward the end of the rail it looks like the material turns into a car's light and continues toward infinity. I felt like it was a good metaphor for riding out life's twists, turns, and kinks. 

Title: Best Buds // Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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Title: Goblin Slayer // Location: Goblin Valley, UT

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Title: False Kiva Hot Tub // Location: Canyonlands, UT

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Title: Rainbow Tree // Location: Angeles Crest, CA

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Title: Raven Rooster Mockingbird // Location: Santa Barbara, CA

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Title: Sharing a View // Location: Bryce Canyon, UT

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Title: Tree of Light (35mm) // Location: Santa Barbara, CA

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Title: Goombasaurus // Location: Valley of Fire, NV

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Thanks for viewing! If you'd like to check out more film light-paintings, you can see my entire film collection right here.

Bryce is Nice

Location: Bryce Canyon, Utah

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Bryce Canyon National Park under a new moon is a one-of-a-kind sight. At this elevation and proximity to the nearest city, it's a great place to capture the Milky Way Galaxy. For the image above, I wanted a colorful and updated version of my last unicorn I did years ago. This time I decided to mix it up a bit and brought a Vixen Polarie Star-Tracker to get the stars looking incredibly bright.

The way this device functions is that you first align it by attaching it to a tripod and then pointing it towards (Polaris) the North Star. After it's aligned, you mount a camera to the device and it will rotate slightly to match the movement of stars. You'll notice some slight light trails in the lower left of my 'Space Unicorn' image above, those are lights in the distance (on Earth) that the star tracker has rotated to compensate for the stars.

The same location during the day makes for a layered amphitheater of giant hoodoos and other interesting geological formations carved out of the sandstone, great colors.

bryce canyon amphitheater

Along the road we stopped at a recovering burned forest, the light looked great during golden hour, so Astro Bandit and I could not resist a bit of exploration.

burned forest

One important thing to mention about Bryce Canyon is the effect of elevation on the weather. At most of the places on our Southwestern road trip we encountered very warm weather. Bryce was the exception - the temperature was warm during the day but dropped to around 34 degrees at night. If you do choose to visit, pack something warm enough to sleep comfortably if you are camping.

We slept in a tipi this night, but some jerk outside would not shut up with his obnoxious flute!

No but seriously, this kitsch tipi was interesting to sleep in for the night, but I would not recommend staying in it due to how close it is to the main road entering Bryce Canyon, cars would go by and wake us up easily. It would be fun for kids and it's easy access to park, but not great for sleep.

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Inside the tipi was a different story, I managed to capture a large honey bee with a very wide angle lens and some Night-Writer + yellow, purple, and white color-tips: 

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Outside, the Milky Way was putting on a show over the hoodoo amphitheater, naturally I went on a little night-hike.

I was surprised by how many other night-photographers were out hiking in these pitch-black conditions and light-painting from different locations within the canyon! It was difficult to photograph long exposures in this location due to how many other people were attempting similar style images with different photo settings. Next time I'll bring a Bullhorn and tell them "You down right, yes you, go easy on that light buddy!", the modern equivalent of this classic scene from Midnight Cowboy. I'm photographing here!

At the top of the canyon there's a great little classroom-style sitting area, so I took advantage of it with my teacher and students drawing. May I present, 'Schooled on Space':

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If you want to get schooled on light-painting, check out the EDU section where you will find all sorts of information from long exposure camera settings, to long exposure iphone settings, to general tips and editing tricks.

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.

Desert Tour in the '78 part II

Locations: Red Rock Canyon State Park and Fossil Falls

Day 2 of our road trip in our rented classic VW Bus 'Rell Sunn' started off with me in my sleeping bag trying to snap a glimpse of this sunrise like a true lazy photographer. That small rainbow in the bottom left is probably one of my favorite features of this photo, I used it for the title composite to the first post about this 3 day desert trip. Dat Zeiss 18mm lens is smooth like butter.

First order of business was to check the odometer, we got a hundred or so miles on the bus:

Let's make some breakfast, because you can do that in a '78 VW Riviera equipped with a propane powered stove. Isabella cracks an egg while Jordan frantically looks for the coffee.

We boiled some water and made some coffee with the french press that comes with the van (thank you).

After breakfast and coffee we hopped into my friend TJ's Jeep and took a ride out to Fossil Falls, the patterns were really interesting and the convergence of earth here made for a striking contrast.

convergence

Here's TJ on the roof for some scale of what this spot looks like. We're a the base of a cinder cone volcano in a dry lake bed. 

Group shot of us goofing around in the middle of a donut.

Astrobandit applies sunblock above the Eastern Sierras:

After our tour of the dry lake bed we took a rocky road out to the little lake viewpoint where you can see the cinder cone volcano we just visited.

We made it back to our campsite in Red Rock Canyon State Park just in time to see the sunset, a nice sorbet colored skyline.

At night we lit a campfire and I shot some images of it giving the landscape a bright orange look, we've got Andromeda with a little cameo just above cliffside.

Around midnight these light-skeletons took our VW Bus for a little joyride. They were friendly, so we just took a nap in the back while they drove us around.

After a long and awesome night, the light skeletons and their friends wave good bye.

Stay tuned for Day 3..

Desert Tour in the '78

Location: Red Rock Canyon State Park, CA

We recently rented a '78 VW manual shift Riviera pop-top nicknamed 'Rell Sunn'  from this really cool and unique business that has a fleet of vintage VW buses for rent in Southern California called Vintage Surfari Wagons. Yes, this exists, and yes, you can rent one from their fleet in Costa Mesa, CA on your next road trip - it's an experience for sure! 

This is basically our digital-media guestbook entry:

Day one started out with picking the VW Bus up in Costa Mesa, CA. We went over some of the quirks about driving a 38 year old automobile and how to best utilize all the features like the propane stove, pop-top camper, and mini-refrigerator. One of the more important points was telling fuel level by the mileage, not the gas gauge - which averages around 200 miles per tank with a little cushion just in case. After a few pointers, I was all set and took 'Rell Sunn' up to Los Angeles to pick up my girlfriend Astrobandit and head out to our first destination, Red Rock Canyon State Park off the Hwy 14.

A neat feature of the passenger chair is that it can swing and lock 180 degrees to face backwards toward the sliding-door and kitchenette area. Good for views and good for playing board games also.

We got to the park around sunset and  selected a nice camping spot close to the cliffside and watched the tail end of the sun fade into the hills.

Here we are popping the top once night fell. The bus can sleep 4, two down low and two up top. An important pointer here is to try and park on a fairly level surface, otherwise you will find yourself crawling to the other side of the van when you slip toward the center of gravity in your sleep. Next time I'd bring a few 2x4's for good measure.

mr fixit

While we slept, I had one of my light-skeleton friends do a little check up on the vehicle. All was in order thankfully.

Night one felt like we were out camping on Mars, the rock formations are something else. Rell Sunn looks like a space-pod here. 

Stay tuned for Day 2..

Zion Zebra

Location: Zion National Park, UT / Settings: (Composite of 2 images) Light art at F5.6, ISO 50, 319 seconds. Landscape at F2.8, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

This image was an idea I've been thinking about for some time. I keep trying to think of animals that I haven't done already - Zebra was a big one on that list, and how perfect - Zion.

I thought it would have to be in black and white, but after visiting the location, I decided to do the Zebra in color instead. The natural lines were too great not to have contrasted in black and white! Happy with how this came together using the Night-Writer V.2 prototype. 

I blended two images together to create this image - a black and white of the landscape (high ISO, low F stop setting) along with the colorful Zebra light-painting (low ISO, high F stop setting). I feel like this creates a more visible 'balance of detail' contained within the image. For more info on this technique, visit the EDU page - it's addressed in Question number 5 at the bottom of the page.

composite

Astro Bandit and I went on a little hike during the day, scope out this incredible layers of earth:

Saw some autumn color in the wash. A nice change from the usual foliage in Los Angeles.

Check out other Light-Animals along with Printing options in the Gallery below: 

Ain't Life Grand?

Location: Grand Canyon, AZ / Settings: F.4, ISO 100, 102 seconds

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

Stepping up to this sheer cliff is a unique experience. If I could fly, it would be a lot less nerve-racking! 

Either way, the Grand Canyon in Arizona definitely helps to put our lives in perspective. 6 million years helped to carve out this unique wonder of the world.

For this shot I didn't need much light, there was a nearly full moon that helped to light the depths of the Grand Canyon. I opted for a minimalist approach with the non-tipped bright-white Night-Writer.

See the full collection of light skeletons in the Gallery:

Rainbow Rex

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

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

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

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

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

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

horse

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

horsey