Pablo App

Locations: Los Angeles, CA | Berlin, Germany | Death Valley, CA

Here's an image I shot in Death Valley, CA at the Mesquite Dunes with a new long exposure video App called PABLO available for iPhone OS now via this LINK (Shot on iPhone 6 using a tripod).

The main point of this App is the process, it records the movement of your light live in-camera - pretty neat!

PABLO App is simple and user friendly - it works best w a tripod - tap the camera icon to get started and tap the red button to start recording. Tap the red button again and the video is over. Make sure to save & title your work, or delete if it's no good and share at your convenience!

I wasn't very good at the first few exposures with the App, one thing to note is you're definitely going to want a nice diffused light because it's easy to blow out such a tiny sensor with brighter torches (see below for example of blown out light). I did this skeleton in an abandoned hospital in Berlin - yes, it was creepy!

You can see how the App records casted light and directed light (video is sped up a bit).

Here's a quick one of the President Elect.. I used a Night-Writer w purple tip for this one but I think it was a bit too close for comfort so the light was a little bright in spots.

The last video I'll share is a quick one - a simple phrase that is all the rage right now. Now give this App a try tonight and see what you can come up with. 

Try some light-painting with your family over the holidays :)

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 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 page.

A Few Good Tips

Lately I've been using color-tips along with the Night-Writer for basically all of my light-art photos. The colors work well and I like drawing with a slightly diffused light-source - it's easier to properly expose the image when the light-source isn't blowing out part of the detailed illustration.

One thing I've been doing that helps to diffuse the bright LED on Night-Writer (when I'm not using the color-tips) is to rip off a piece of paper (usually from an old receipt or whatever I had in my pocket at the time), place it in the recessed tip area and presto - a duller light-source.

I have been doing this for a few months now, enough that I've decided to go ahead and produce some semi-opaque white color-tips. I think from now on I will include one with every Night-Writer order. It's useful for diffusing the light and gives a great 3D texture:

Location: Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F.11, ISO 100, 21 seconds

Gear: Canon 6D, Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, and Remote shutter

Taking the tips concept a bit further, I've also been working on some glowing color-tips - mostly just to see what they look like in use.

My results are kind of interesting - it's basically like getting in 2 drawings for the energy of one with regard to battery use.

Use the LED light for the first drawing, and this charges the glow for your second drawing - I've illustrated some Yin and Yang symbols to demonstrate the idea:

Location: Kitchen / Settings: F4.5, ISO 1600, 21 seconds each

yin and yang

Gear: Canon 6DZeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 LensManfrotto 190x Tripod, and Remote shutter

I may offer these as additional color-tips for the Night-Writer soon. There is still some testing to be done with them, and the red glowing tip smells pretty bad (like sulfur), but I like what direction this concept is headed.

Well Weathered

Today is a special post about shooting in unique weather conditions - specifically, fog and rain.

Fog is basically a low-lying cloud of moisture that can make for some interesting and moody shots if you're prepared for the opportunity. Long exposure photography pairs especially well with fog because the LED lights create the most spectacular glow:

Location: PCH - Big Sur, CA / Settings: (Composite of 2 images) Light art at F.9, ISO 100, 133 seconds. Rain at F2.8, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

well weathered

Gear: Canon 6D, Manfrotto 190x Tripod, 24-70mm Lens, Remote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

The challenge here is that moisture and electronics don't mix very well, and fog can move quick - getting a good shot without damaging your camera is going to take some quick work on your part. I recommend setting your camera up on a tripod before-hand and keeping it in your passenger seat so it's ready to go at a moment's notice like in the case above.

Location: Salt Point State Park, CA / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 24-70mm, 171 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

Bring your killer katana umbrella, a good wet-weather jacket, and don't forget the lens-wipe. In addition, you could weather-proof your camera with something like a Hurricane Hood - it's a bit overkill for me in Los Angeles, but I'd definitely rock one in the Pacific Northwest (or wherever these type of weather conditions are common).

Location: Central Valley, CA / Settings: F.10, ISO 100, 124 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and Night-Writer LED-pen.

Another thing I like to do as a camera-safety precaution is to keep little silica bags from new shoes that I purchase - every time I get a new pair of black shoes, I throw those silica bags right into my camera bag for immediate re-use - they absorb moisture - they're small and totally necessary.

Location: Malibu, CA / Settings: F.8, ISO 100, 585 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DManfrotto 190x Tripod24-70mm LensRemote shutter, and proto Night-Writer LED-pen.

If you liked this post and want to read more about the 'Salt Point' location in Northern California - check it out here.

Out There

Location: Anza Borrego, CA / Settings: 8 vertical images shot at F.2, 3200 ISO, for 8 seconds

I used a Canon 6D along with Manfrotto 190x Tripod and a Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 Lens to shoot this super-crisp pano in the desert last fall. You can click on the image to see it larger - I'm pretty amped on the clarity of this image. Can't wait to this lens and my wider angle 18mm Zeiss Distagon T* 3.5 lens the next time visiting dark-skies.

I've edited together this pano of 8 vertical images using photoshop in the past - they have a photo-merge feature that usually works great.

Sometimes I'm not thrilled with the results, so I take it next door to the old App Store - recently I've bought a program (for mac) called Panorama Stitcher that works pretty great, ofter better than photoshop. It seems to have less issues with the blends, see for yourself:

campers pano

If you'll notice the sky, there's three ribbons that appear between the stars where the program had some difficulty.

See my full collection of Nature-related images on the Gallery: