Let there be light paint­ing!

The tech­nique is sim­ple, but you might need sev­eral at­tempts to get a re­sult you’re happy with

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

01 Full beam ahead

The most im­por­tant tool you’ll need for light paint­ing (af­ter your cam­era) is the torch it­self. You’ll need one with a strong beam, able to reach the dis­tant land­scape. We used a 1,000,000-can­dle-power torch, and took ex­tra bat­ter­ies with us in case the ones in the torch ran out.

03 Lock the fo­cus

Place your cam­era on your tri­pod. Aut­o­fo­cus is dif­fi­cult in low light, and since the AF lamp built into your cam­era won’t be bright enough to reach the dis­tant land­scape, use your torch to light up your sub­ject, aut­o­fo­cus a third of the way into the frame, and then switch to man­ual to lock it.

05 Paint with care

You may need a friend to make sure you paint evenly – it’s easy to leave the torch in one place and get hot spots. Stand­ing back from your sub­ject (up to 40 feet) and us­ing long sweep­ing move­ments will help pre­vent this. An­gling the torch to the side helps de­fine the shape of the rocks.

02 Make it quick

To speed things up, turn off long ex­po­sure noise re­duc­tion (found in the Shoot­ing menu on most cam­era bod­ies). Long ex­po­sure noise re­duc­tion takes a sec­ond black frame with the shut­ter closed to record the noise gen­er­ated by the im­age sen­sor, dou­bling the time each shot takes.

04 Slow things down

We set a nar­row aper­ture of f/8 to en­sure a de­cent depth of field, a low ISO (ISO100) to min­imise noise and a very slow shut­ter speed (20 secs) to ex­pose the photo cor­rectly. Use the self-timer to trig­ger the shut­ter, to avoid cam­era shake, and be­gin paint­ing your sub­ject with the torch.

06 Ad­just and ex­per­i­ment

Check your shot. If light from your torch is flar­ing into the lens, put a lens hood on. Ad­just your shut­ter speed if the ex­po­sure needs al­ter­ing. We painted our scene from the left for the du­ra­tion of our 20-sec­ond ex­po­sure, but you may not need to paint for that long.

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