Light up the land­scape

Mas­ter the art of light paint­ing

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When we’re on a land­scape shoot, most of us tend to call it a day once the sun has dropped be­low the hori­zon, but there is a way to carry on shoot­ing long into the night, and that’s to light up the land­scape your­self.

The ba­sic idea is to lit­er­ally paint your sub­ject with a torch dur­ing a long ex­po­sure so that it stands out against the darker back­ground. With­out this ex­tra help­ing of light, it would ei­ther get lost against the back­ground, or it would just be com­pletely sil­hou­et­ted. The light also helps pick out tex­ture and de­tail, es­pe­cially if you stand off to one side and ‘paint’ from an an­gle.

For our light-paint­ing project we headed down to the south coast of Eng­land to pho­to­graph Pul­pit Rock. We took along a mil­lion-can­dle-power torch to light up the rock stack, and a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens to en­able us to fit ev­ery­thing in. We also took along plenty of spare bat­ter­ies, so that we wouldn’t run out of juice mid-shoot.

As with cityscapes (see The Blue Mo­ment on page 16), the best time to paint with light is when there’s still some light in the sky – that way you can ex­pose for the sky and then use your torch to re­veal your sub­ject, and bal­ance the ex­po­sure.

You don’t need to visit Pul­pit Rock, of course; you can paint with light on any scene. Rocks, grass, build­ings, trees… there really isn’t any limit to the sub­jects you can il­lu­mi­nate. Read on to find out how it’s done...

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