Posts Tagged ‘aperture’

Adventures in Light Painting

Oct 29 2008

Caught in the act!
Photo by Scott Stulberg.

Guest Post for TWIP.

Even if you are not familiar with the term light painting, you’ve probably already experimented with it. Have you ever swirled your camera around the twinkling lights on your Christmas tree to create spirals, or shapes; or the initials of your name, or captured the twisting, turning trail of sweet glow sticks or a Poi spinner at some crazy full moon party in Thailand? Then you, my friend, are a light painter!

Light painting is a photographic technique where you physically ‘paint’ light into your camera frame during a long exposure, either by manipulating a light source like a flashlight, flash or by moving the camera around a light source.

During our star shoot at the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop, Scott Stulberg pointed out a beautiful Mormon barn and suggested that we light paint it.

Light paint a barn? Oh yes! The idea seemed crazy because all my previous experimentation with light painting had been on such a small scale, and the only light we had was a headlamp, but Scott was determined.

We set up in front of the barn and starting testing different settings. Because it was impossible to grab focus, I ran up close to the house and shon the headlamp on a window. Once Scott got his focus set, we got to the painting.

By cupping the headlamp with one hand, we were able to direct the light on the house and trees, carefully avoiding the foreground. It was a lot like actual painting. Starting with the roof of the house, you gracefully paint the shingles, then the sides, then the front, giving a little extra light to the windows and doors.

The trees were tricky. It took so much time to paint the house correctly that we always ran out of time to do the trees fully. We’d start at the bottoms of the trees and paint upwards, trying to hit the top and then swoop downwards. We tried for a while, but we just weren’t getting the light composition we wanted. The shot was just a little flat.

Light Painted House (Jacksonhole, WY)
Canon 5D 16-35mm f/2.8 lens: 25s exposure, f/3.2, ISO 1250.

Martin suggested that we light up the barn using a short blast from a car’s headlights. So we moved a car about 200m away from the barn, angling the lights at the barn and the adjacent trees. Timing was a bit tricky, as the headlights could only be on for less than a second or they would blow out the shot like the photo below.

ANPW: Light painting a Mormon house

This is the view from the car. You can see the group setting up for the shot. I was the gal in charge of turning the lights off and on so I didn’t get a chance to grab this shot. But here’s Scotty’s shot. He had a little extra light from a passing car. That is why the foreground is lit. Pretty cool effect, don’t you think?

Lightpainted Mormon Barn_ScottStulberg
Photo by Scott Stulberg. Settings with 14mm: 20s Exposure, f/2.8, ISO 800.

After taking this shot we ran into Dave Black (a legendary light painter) and his team, who were about to start an epic 30 minute light painting project. See the results and how he did it on his website. They are truly remarkable.

Light painting is a really dynamic photographic technique that you can really get creative with. You don’t need boat loads of money to experiment, just a flashlight and some coloured gels will do to start with. Gels are quite expensive if you buy them off the roll. But if you are up for a little DIY, you can get a nifty lil book of sampler gels and filters from LEE Filters.

LEE Filters Sampler Book of Gels and Filters

I bought this little pack for $2.99 at a local photography store. It had a great selection of gels big enough to fit on my flashes (Canon EX430 & EX580). If you can’t find them, try contacting LEE, they will usually send out the sampler pack for free. If you are in the UK, check out

If you want some inspiration and to see how far you can push light painting, check out this amazing collection of light paint art in Smashing Magazine, Strobist’s guides and tutorials to light painting with strobes, and the light painted group on flickr.

Share your light painting experiences & shots in the comments!

Aperture Nature Workshop (Tetons) Day Two

Sep 29 2008

The Iconic Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

The ANPW contest winners, Pros, and I were up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning at 5am, hoping to catch a beautiful dawn in Grand Teton Ntl. Park. The actual workshop *learning Aperture* was to begin later, but at first light, the students split up into two groups to take some pictures.

I trucked it to Oxbow Bend with Pros: Scott Stulberg & Steve Simon; and contest winners, Richard and Bryan. Everyone came prepared for the cold, except Steve, who was a bit whiny and runny nosed, kinda like a baby who’s had their lollipop ripped outta their tiny little hands by a mean photographer trying to capture pure misery and tears. I guess Steve is like me, you know, “they mostly come out at night… mostly” aka morning is for sleeping, afternoons are for eating breakfast.

Scott was determined to get a great shot, so we headed down this step muddy hill to the bank of Snake River. And then we set up our tripods, then everyone laughed at mind and pushed me in the mud… well they didn’t exactly push me in the mud, but I bet they wanted too,. Jerks. *huff* Then we pointed our lenses at the iconic view and waited. And waited.

ANPW: Richard, Steve Simon, Bryan, Me, Scott Stulberg

No interesting light seemed to be happening on Mt. Moran, but suddenly a slight miss of fog started floating just above the water line behind us. No one else was worried about the immediate appearance of Death Eaters, but I methodically started chanting the Patronus Charm in my head and heart. As the fog began to roll, As the fog began to roll, Scott jumped and “yahooed”, changing his camera direction to started shooting the rolling fog and silhouetted trees against the wispy, pink sky.

Oxbow Bend foggy at dawn, Grand Tetons

It was a great lesson in always looking for shots, even when you are waiting for a sunrise to happen, look around, there maybe a great shot just waiting to be found like, a silhouetted bird in the distance, or a line of photographers tripods all in a row, or even interesting shots of reflected trees in the water.

Everyone was carefully switching lenses near the water, and Scotty reminded us to always keep one hand on your tripod near water. He has tragically lost two cameras in the water, so let him be the lesson for all of us.

Scott Bourne lead Catherine and Rob to Schwabacher Landing, but immediately left when no clouds were present because without clouds, landscape shots fall a bit flat. So, they headed up the road past the landing at Teton Overlook and grabbed some amazing panoramic shots of the Southern Tetons. Rob disappeared from the group with Martin aka the “Aperture Guru” for a while and ran into a crazy one horned elk.

After breakfast, the workshop got in full gear at the beautiful Jackson Arts center where Martin blew our minds with the dynamic power of Aperture. We imported our images, learned how to compare and select our favorites, and generally found out that Aperture can do most of the things we used to do in Photoshop, but it’s waaaay less complicated. I’ll do a dedicated post on Aperture in the next few days so you guys can see how cool it is.

What photo management & editing application do you use?

ANPW in Grand Teton National Park: Day One

Sep 24 2008

Schwabacher landing, Grand Teton National Park

Yesterday I arrived in the small Mountain Resort town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I couldn’t help “oohing” and “ahhing” at the spectacular view of the mountains, winding rivers, and the gorgeous colours of the changing leaves as the plane descended over the Grand Tetons. 

Scott Bourne was worried that we might miss the the fall colours, but he couldn’t have picked a better week for the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop. The weather is perfect, the colours are spectacular and the wildlife is abundant — in fact just after arriving we saw a huge herd of Bison saunter across the road, munch on some grass, and then cross back over to the same spot they came from. Scott amused us by vocalizing the inner dialogue of a massive, sleepy looking guy. I believe his name was “Wilber”.

Since my arrival,  Scott and I have headed out on a sunset scouting mission at Oxbow Bend and a dawn shoot at Schwabacher landing. I’m not gonna lie. Dawn is freezing and early. Today it was around 25°F (-4°C) and I was way underdressed. Even with three layers I was c-c-c-cold. Scott loaned me a jacket and gave me these little heat packs that I put in my gloves which helped a lot. 

After the sun came up, we scouted the Mormon Row barns that are surrounded by tall grass and slender birch trees and framed by the Tetons. Brilliant.

Morman Row Barn black and white

I have to admit, I have never shot any nature this iconic, and it is a bit daunting trying to take a great and unique shot of something that has been photographed a million times. As a beginning nature photographer, my main goal is just to soak up as much knowledge from the pros as possible and try to do these impressive landscapes justice.

Tomorrow the entire group is heading out at dawn to catch the morning bliss. 5:00am start for me :(

*Interesting note: Only one other person, other than myself, who is shooting Canon. Has Canon really dropped the ball? I’m really interested in what you guys are using.

What camera are you shooting with: Nikon or Canon? And why?

Aperture Nature Photography Workshop

Sep 16 2008

Canada Goose Neck
This goose is 100% Canadian just like me. He even said “aboot”.

Next week, I am heading to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, along with 8 amazing photographers for the first Aperture Nature Photography Workshop in Grand Teton National Park.

The workshop brings together the wisdom and experince of 3 pro photographers, award-winning photojournalist Steve Simon, travel & stock photographer, Scott Stulberg & TWiP’s leading man Scott Bourne, with the enthusiasm of the 4 amateur photographers and me!

Lisa with 70-200mm on Kits Beach
Gabriel Morosan snapped this candid of me on Kits Beach with the 70-200mm.

I’ll be blogging, vlogging, and documenting all the inspirational moments in the Grand Tetons and no doubt I’ll get up to some mischief at some point :D.

The amateurs were selected amongst thousands of talented phtoographers who entered their best nature or wildlife shot in the contest. You can see their stunning photos here.

Besides getting to learn from some of the best photographers in the business, the contest winners get some sweet prizes as well (USB Drobo, ThinkTank photo bag, Aperture, Lifetime Photrade membership…). As the official blogger, I may be privy to these prizes as well.

I’m so psyched about the ThinkTank rotation360 bag. I’ve been using the Lowepro Computrekker AW bag and it sits so high on my back that it completely messes up my centre of balance, and I have literally been knocked off my feet more than once. Both of those times being on the London Underground. Don’t worry, no biscuits were injured during the fall, only my knees and elbows.

Lisa & Lowepro Computrekker AWWith all my gear, this bag weighed 7.5kg (16lbs). Yikes. See what’s inside.

I think this will be a life-changing experience for me. Getting the chance to learn from these great photographers is truly priceless. Plus, Scott has promised to let me have go on his Nikon D3. My lil Rebel Xti is already pouting.

There are three more ANPW contests to Olympic, Yosemite, and Yellowstone National Parks, so if you are budding nature/wildlife photographer, I really encourage you to enter the next competition. You may even get to hang out with me. :p I’ll let you know when the next contest deadline is announced. Until then, get inspired and head outside and snap some awesome nature photos.

And remember to join my photography competition group on flickr and post your best shot of the summer. You’ve got until noon Thursday, Sept 18th to enter your photo.