If you have been a Level 1, 4 Days, or Creative Photography Workshop student at LSP you have probably heard us talk about Michael Bosanko during the Shutter Speed presentation.
We first came across the Welsh artist’s work when published at the Guardian in 2009 and have been using his photographs as an inspiration for Light Painting techniques ever since. We spoke to Michael this month and he was happy share how he creates his images with LSP Newsletter’s readers.
“Light Art for me had its humble beginnings back in summer 2004 in Greece when by chance, photographing a moonlit landscape went unexpectedly wrong. Unclipping the camera from its tripod, I quickly discovered that by putting the camera into long exposure I could move the camera in my hands and use the moon itself to write out a word,” he said.
” Ever since then, I have been on a solitary journey of discovery, pushing the limits of my photographic knowledge, my imagination, and always overstepping the boundaries of what is feasibly possible. I find enormous reward in creating a piece of work that only exists in the moment; the only evidence of its existence recorded on camera.”
To create light paintings you will need long exposures. How long will depend on how much existing light there is in the environment and how much time you need to create your drawings. It can vary from a few seconds to many hours. Most digital cameras with manual exposure mode will have shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds (sometimes more), and SLRs have the BULB setting which enables the photographer to use any exposure time, or as long as the camera’s battery lasts.
‘To get the best results, the shoot depends on the amount of ambient light that is available. If I am working in an urban environment like a city then there is lots of ambient light that means I have to work quickly,’ says Bosanko.
The combination of low ISO and small aperture (large f/number) will help to cut the amount of light getting into the camera and allow for longer exposure times. But to find the right combination, you might need a couple (or a dozen) of test shots. Depending on the first shot, you can change the settings to improve the next, for example, if your image comes out too dark, you can open the aperture a bit or increase ISO, or even leave the shutter open for a longer time, in order to get more light into the camera.
The exposure time you aim to get will be long enough to capture the whole light painting you’ve planned. Find out how long you take to complete your drawings and set the exposure time. To use BULB you will need a wired remote control if you are taking the photo and doing the painting at the same time. For up to 30 seconds exposures, you can use the self timer, press the shutter, and position yourself where to start the drawings when the timer goes off. A tripod is essential, or any surface you can leave your camera still for a long time.
About what kind of light sources Michael uses for his work, he says: “The vast majority of my tools are simple household torches that are used or fashioned in various ways, along with standard bulbs, LEDs, fire or anything I can get my hands on, and if I can’t find it, I try and make it”.
If you don’t want to appear in the image as a “ghost”. wear dark clothes. Although many light painting images look like they were edited in Photoshop, the fun part of it is to get the final image straight from the camera, without post production. Bosanko says: ” My personal Light Graffiti portfolio shares one thing in common; not one piece has reached photo editing stage unless I am resizing for the web, and using watermarks. There is no layering or overlapping of any kind. I have chosen this path not because I am anti-editing; far from it… I want to keep my light graffiti pure, learn from my mistakes and triumphs.”
Light painting sounds like a modern technique but in fact, the first cameras needed very long exposures to capture enough light to form an image. Many artists have experimented with the technique before including Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1949. There is an interesting article about that at Time Magazine website.
Get inspired and upload your LIGHT PAINTING images to the Flickr Gallery: ASSIGNMENT #30 for a chance to win an Evening Workshop Voucher at LSP*. Deadline: 31 October 2014.