Light Painting 12 November 2019     
In a change to the scheduled programme, we welcomed Michelle Essenson to Devizes Camera Club for a presentation and practical session on Light Painting. Introduced as an enthusiastic speaker and regular presenter at the Royal Photographic Society, we had all been advised to bring our cameras (with Manual mode and Bulb function), sturdy tripod and plenty of batteries.
DF LightPainting 2First of all, Michelle explained what Light Painting is, referring us to a definition on Wikipedia. She said it might involve lighting a scene, creating a scene by recording light movement, or producing results by moving the camera and using a static light source. The history of Light Painting, she said, goes back to the 1880’s when the first photographs to trace human movement were produced. Later, in 1914, the technique was used in a Time & Motion study by strapping lights to workers and recording their movement on a camera with an open shutter. Today it is used mostly as an art form and in commercial photography. She referred us to for further information.
Michelle told us a bit about her own photography journey, saying that she does some nature photography as well as shooting landscapes, astrophotography and likes to work with water, although she said she did not do much people photography. She started using Light Painting in January 2014 using just a torch and became hooked straight away. She now spends a lot of her time doing light painting photography with a vast array of tools, including light sabres, bicycle wheels and one, her favourite, that she described as a “rave whip”!
Many of her tools are homemade, using acrylic rods with torches attached using adapters made from plumbing accessories. Michelle recommended Hindleys Ltd for the inexpensive purchase of acrylic rods, tubes and sheets. She advocated using strings of LED lights, like Christmas decorations, attached to old bicycle wheels, curtain rails and skipping ropes. Specialist tools can also be bought from and Torches are essential and she recommended those with a memory mode and an on/off switch at the end. Variable intensity, multi-coloured features and strobe effects are also desirable.
Michelle then gave us a list of issues to consider for our own Light Painting activities. These included:
DF LightPainting 1• use a tripod
• work out the width of your work area, mark it out; move your tripod or zoom as need while the lights are on
• use Manual Mode and Bulb mode
• F8 and ISO 200 is a good starting point - vary according to the strength of the light source
• use autofocus initially and switch to Manual focus to fine tune
• take account of the usual long exposure considerations
• use Mirror lock-up or a mirrorless camera
• use a cloth to cover the lens while changing tools or during idle periods of exposure
• use a cable release or remote shutter trigger
• and then remove all other light sources (switch out the lights)
- and always be aware of SAFETY while working in the dark.
To emphasize the importance of safety, Michelle told us how she had been badly hurt when she tripped and fell near the canal on one of her many Light Painting forays.
After a quick cup of tea, Michelle led a fast-paced workshop, giving those who had brought their cameras a chance to capture images using a variety of her tools. Her enthusiasm was infectious and everyone really enjoyed the process. Both photographers and watchers were impressed with the results and inspired to do more.
Our Chairman was profuse in his thanks to Michelle for standing in at such short notice and providing us with a very memorable evening. DF
Images by David Fraser