I have always felt attracted by Light Painting. In my opinion this is possibly one of the most creative photographic techniques of them all. Some would say that photography in general can be as creative as you want it to be, but here is my point:
When you take a picture, you prepare a mixture of creativeness, originality and imagination in order to get the most of the environment elements available in front of you. You decide, you press the shutter and there you go, your possible new masterpiece is ready to develop! Light painting goes one step further and, apart from all the previous, the photographer adds elements that do not actually exist in the frame!! He creates the picture as if he were a painter, but with the key difference that painters use paint whereas we use LIGHT, and light and how to control it is what photography is all about.
For further information check this out.
This technique is not new to me since I have played with it every now and then in the past, but I was totally self taught until I attended the last 9th of February to a Meetup group about Light Painting, precisely about how to create Light Orbs and Light Rails. I enrolled to this event since I had tried to make these child´s game Light Obrs or Light Spheres and all I obtained was a perfectly crappy bi-polar ellipses bent towards every possible side, hehe.
In the meetup we were showed how to improve our technique to create good Orbs, but that is something I am not going to explain right now. However, since it is a tricky business that not only requires to know the theory but to practise it a lot, I will dedicate a future post just for that, promised!
Apart from it, the most interesting stuff I learnt during the nearly 4 hours the meetup lasted for was the “How To” part of it. The meetup coordinators, Shiu Bond Whan and Dion Hitchcock, and organiser Alex Laberge kindly explained in detail how to build our own. Amazingly enough, everything was LED based hand made stuff. The ones who know me are aware of how much I love to attempt building things of this kind and so having that gear within my equipment suddenly became a “need”.
After the meetup I contacted Shiu asking him the exact materials he bought on eBay since not all LEDs are ideal for the job. The colours are important since some colours are not suitable at all, for example red (although you can find some expensive ones that would work).
There are two jigs to build and here I put a list of the materials required for each:
Materials for LIGHT ORBS (difficulty: 5 out of 10 // time: 60 minutes // price: between £7 and £9):
- 1 x Light String (30 LEDs) : Colour of your choice but I recommend Blue LEDs, White LEDs, Purple LEDs (battery drains faster though) and Green LEDs (they are more expensive and difficult to find)
- 3 x AA Batteries.
- 1.5 meters of multi strand audio wire (two wires attached one another)
- Heavy duty soldering iron.
Once you know the materials, lets start building the LIGHT ORBS jig:
HOW TO BUILD THE “ORBS” LIGHTS
STEP 1: Test that the 30 LEDs light string functions correctly:
STEP 2: Stick sellotape to a table (sticky side upwards)
STEP 3: One by one stick the 30 LEDs to the adhesive of the sellotape, leaving roughly 3 cm between LEDs:
STEP 4: Once the 30 are attached to the sellotape, cover them with another layer (sticky side against sticky side)
STEP 5: At this point you have a tidier LED string, easier to manipulate. Cut the wire with a cutting pliers as follows:
STEP 6: Reserve the battery holder for later and focus on the LED string. Grab the LED on one of the sides and start rolling the rest of the LEDs over it:
STEP 7: Once you have formed a swirl with all the LEDs hold everything in position with sellotape, covering the outer LEDs and the bunch of wires with several loops until you get a solid structure:
STEP 8: Unsolder the remains of the original thin wires from the switch board inside the battery holder as follows:
STEP 9: With the help of a heavy-duty soldering iron (do not use good quality one for this task) resize the hole until it is big enough to pass the new wires (audio cable) through it. Take into account that the cable must pass tight through the whole, to avoid the solder joints to break when the cable is pulled out (if the cable get loose you will need to glue it to strengthen it so be careful not oversizing the hole too much)
STEP 10: Pass the two cores of the cable through the whole and leave excess of wire that allows you to solder it comfortable to the pads on the switch board
STEP 11: Solder each wire to any of the two pads (at this point the polarity is not important)
STEP 12: Stripe about 1cm off the other end of the cables (unconnected for now). Put the switch in the ON position and try the polarity. When the LEDs light up, remember that polarity and solder the audio cable to the LED thin wires accordingly. Once soldered, cover it with heatshrink tube (you can buy it from any hardware stores) and apply heat to make it hug the solder joint. If you do not have access to heatshrink tube, insulating tape can be used instead.
STEP 13: Hold the wires in position over the LED “bulb” using sellotape. Give it a good amount of turns. The more sellotape you put and tension you apply here, the better, stronger and more resistant will your wiring and soldering be. This means, fewer repairs would be required (if they ever break). Do not rush, do things properly.
STEP 14: Switch on your new toy and verify that it works correctly:
I have made myself 4 different colours. The green one is only composed by 20 LEDs so, in order to get as good results as with the other colours I need to play a bit more with my camera settings or to choose a different and darker location to shot in.
Now, some quick test shots at home at f13 and 15 seconds of shutter speed:
I HOPE I HAVE ENCOURAGED YOU TO BUILD YOUR OWN!!!
I want to thank again to Shiu Bond Wan and Dion Hitchcock for their time and priceless help!!