Interchangeable Stencil Box

Have you ever heard about Stencils before?

There are some amazing artists, like Banksi, that create really sharp and smart art by using this technic. Why shouldn’t we also add it to our Light Photography tools and have some fun with it?

What is it?

Well, Stencil is a material into which you cut some letters or a design, so you can reproduce it on another surface. Normally you do it by applying a pigment, but you can also do it by shinning a light source through it.

Why should we use it?

This technic allows us to have a great amount of detail, like sharp letters, and to be able to quickly reproduce it. Imagine you want to have your logo or watermark on your photos. Instead of adding it in post-processing, with Stencils you can add it directly in the photo. Or maybe you want to add 20 Stars to your photo. From now on, you will have no more problems with that…

Applying the Stencil concept to Light Painting isn’t hard! It needs a little bit of preparation (hopefully this tutorial will help you with that) and some practice, but you’ll get some great results in no time.

The easiest way to do it is by buying (or building yourself – check below!) a Stencil Light Box, with a slot for interchangeable designs, if possible.

And that’s what I’ll now show you how to build.

LIGHTS FROM DREAMS’ INTERCHANGEABLE STENCIL BOX

Before you can start, you need to make sure that you have all you’ll need:

  • big piece of cardboard;
  • Utility knife;
  • Ruler;
  • Alufolie;
  • Glue and duck tape;
  • About 1 hour! =)
photo of interchangeable Stencil Box - Materials

Interchangeable Stencil Box – Materials

The idea behind it is to build a Light Box with a slot so we can use it with different designs. At one end you want to have your Light Source (we will use our speedlight flash gun) and on the other end you want a flat piece of light material that will work as your Light Output (we will use a A4 white piece of paper). After the Light Output we will create a slot where we can slide different designs to use with our Stencil Box.

Let’s get to it!

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POST-A-PHOTO: KEN LEE

So, we are back with another Post-a-Photo. This time, as promised, you show you another photo from photographer Ken Lee, and the interesting story behind it.

 KEN LEE – TEMPLE TREE ZION

“In March of 2013, my girlfriend and I took a road trip to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah. I took night sky photos of Valley of Fire one evening, scratching myself pretty good when my hands were raked by branches of a very thorny bush, while I was running around light painting some of the rocks. And on another evening, I took night sky photos of Zion National Park.  I took various photos of Big Bend and other dramatic, spectacular features.

But at one of the locations, I could not shoot what I wanted because the moon was absurdly bright and constantly in frame, wreaking havoc on the photo. I decided to scout other locations. I turned around, and saw this tree, illuminated by the moon. I gasped at its beauty, and immediately turned the camera around to photograph it.  Although the tree looked perfectly gorgeous the way the moonlight picked up the texture of the bark, compositionally, I noticed that it would benefit from a bit of separation from the background. I added just a hint of light from the headlights of my car in the distance, which creates the back glow on the tree, also warming the photo a bit and adding a magical feel. The long exposure, a total of fifty minutes overall, captures the heavenly movements of the stars, a beautiful reminder of how we are constantly in a state of movement even though we are often oblivious to it.

Temple Tree Zion, by Ken Lee

Temple Tree Zion, by Ken Lee

A bit later, the editors at National Geographic featured this photo as one of the Daily Dozen of the day, putting it on the front of their website, a very flattering honor. It has also won numerous other accolades, such as the Photo of the Day on Photoburst and other sites.”

– Ken Lee –

 

We hope you enjoyed it. And, if you did, please keep an eye open, there is also an interview with Ken Lee coming up very soon!

Post-a-Photo: Ken Lee

This is the first of a new category of posts called Post-a-Photo. In the Post-a-Photo we will give here a place for people who want to show one (or several) of their photos and tell the story behind it.

We are very happy to start it off with the great photographer Ken Lee.

KEN LEETRONA PINNACLES
“This is a 50-minute exposure in total, showing the movement of the stars, a heavenly nocturnal show, at Trona Pinnacles in the Mojave Desert in California. The otherworldly landscape consists of hundreds of pinnacles reaching as high as 140 feet (43 meters). They were formed tens of thousands of years ago when these unusual shapes formed while they were underwater. Many science fiction movies are filmed there, including “Star Trek” and “Planet of the Apes”, as well as many other movies and TV shows. This part of the Mojave Desert is also largely away from light pollution, so it is possible to see the Milky Way and other stars vividly. There is the glow of the little town of Trona in the distant horizon, warming the landscape.
I drove out to Trona Pinnacles, a four-hour drive, in July 2013 on a warm evening. I had the whole area of Trona Pinnacles to myself for the entire night, the desert air silent except for the occasional train rumbling past, a very peaceful evening. Occasionally, I broke the silence with some music. I laid on the hood of my car while listening to Bob Marley or Brian Eno with Cluster while the camera captured long exposure star trails. Altogether a magical evening. After photographing the Trona Pinnacles, I drove to the “Kill Bill” Church to photograph it, getting there just before sunrise.

Trona Pinnacles, by Ken Lee

Trona Pinnacles, by Ken Lee

A bit later, this photo, entitled “Trona Glow Star Trails”, won first place in LA Times Travel section for Best Summer Photo. I had been reading the LA Times Travel Section since I had been a kid, marveling at fantastic photos of distant lands, wishing I could experience these exotic places and be able to photograph them as magnificently as the photos I saw there. So although perhaps not as prestigious as winning accolades or contests with National Geographic, Smithsonian, Lonely Planet or others, I was especially moved by this award.”

– Ken Lee –

If you liked this post, stay tunned. There is more of Ken Lee coming soon!   ;)

TUTORIAL: PHOTO STACKING FOR LIGHT PAINTERS

Photo Stacking is a post-processing technic, which allows us to blend several shots together. It has some advantages, some disadvantages, it is seen by many photographers as a way to “cheat” your photos, but it can also be useful! …and creative!

When can it be useful?
Imagine that you want to do a lot of light painting – lets say you need a couple of minutes to do all your stuff – on a place with some ambient light. If you shoot it with a long exposure maybe you will get a blown-out photo from all that ambient light coming through your lens and if you shoot a shorter exposure maybe you won’t have time for all your light painting.
You can try to fiddle with your camera settings – and I advise you to – and maybe you will be able to find a good compromise, which will allow you to keep the ambient light dim while still having time for your Light Painting. This would be maybe the best solution. But, still, sometimes it doesn’t work, so Photo Stacking is a very useful technic to know!

How do you go about doing it?
The easiest way is to think in layers. Imagine that want to take a photo on a street with 4 Ball of Light. You will have 5 layers:

  • – ambient / background exposure;
  • – ball of light #1
  • – ball of light #2
  • – ball of light #3
  • – ball of light #4

Then you just need to go to the computer and blend them all together. And to explain you that part I thought it would be better to use an example.

The other day I went out with my friend Thomas to the forest to take some photos. For some creative reasons we decided to use photo stacking to make this photo:

Light Painting Photo by Luis Pato and Thomas Lange

Ghost, by Luis Pato and Thomas Lange

Lets see how we did it.

We discussed the idea and planned it out in layers like this: Continue reading

INTERVIEW: HANNU HUHTAMO

This week i was lucky enough to get to interview one of my favorite Light Painters: Hannu Huhtamo. Hannu is a highly creative Light Painter with a very unique and interesting style. Over the years he has developed a whole set of skills that allow him to produce some very atmospherical and meaningful images.

Banner for the Interview with Hannu Hahtamo

1. Can you tell us a little bit about you?
I’m an Helsinki based photographer and musician.

2. How did you get started with Photography, especially Light Painting Photography?
Actually it all started from long exposure experiments. My good friend Janne Parviainen, who is also a maniac Light Painter, showed me some of his Light Drawings and I was immediately blown away about the whole concept. It was something more than photography, the use of Light as a pencil gave me so much ideas that I had to buy my first DSLR right away. Although Janne did his first light paintings with a small compact camera and you wouldn’t believe how awesome things he could draw in 15 seconds.

Light Painting by Hannu Huhtamo

True you, by Hannu Huhtamo

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INTERVIEW: DAN BARR

Here at the Lights from Dreams blog we had the pleasure of interviewing one of our favorite night photographers: Dan Barr.
On top of having some really great looking photos, Dan Barr has also some very interesting ideas about Night Photography, talks about his gear and creative process, and gives some very useful tips for people who are trying to develop their photographic skills.
DanBarr-Banner
1. Can you tell us a little bit about you?
Sure, I am a self taught photographer based out of San Diego California. I am married and expecting my first child in January. My number one hobby is spending time outdoors and I take almost every free opportunity to go hiking, backpacking or camping. I grew up in Wyoming and have lived in a bunch of different places, including North Dakota, New Mexico and New York either for work or to pursue an education. I have a bachelors degree in Anthropology/Biology from the University of New Mexico and a PhD in cell biology from SUNY Stony Brook. Although my professional background is as a research scientist in cell biology I am no longer working in this field.

Photo of star trails by Dan Barr

Guardian of the Patriarch, by Dan Barr

2. How did you get started into photography, especially into Night Photography?
Early on photography never held much interest for me. I had several film cameras over the years but I was never much of a photographer. I’d take photos and would end up with these rolls of exposed film that I was usually too lazy to get developed. I still have some undeveloped rolls in a box somewhere.
Everything changed with the advent of digital cameras. I bought my first point and shoot digital camera in 2005 while I was living in New York state and working on my graduate degree. I bought the camera mostly to document my life in New York and to take with me on hiking trips in the catskills and walks on long island beaches. I soon discovered that I really enjoyed the process of making a photograph and I began to see photography as something more than just taking pictures, but something that required forethought and composition. I took the camera along on a weeklong camping trip to Maine and that did it for me, I was hooked.
I didn’t get involved in night photography until 2008, after I had relocated to California. I loved the open spaces of the desert and began spending all of my free time hiking and camping. I rekindled a lost love of star gazing, a hobby I was never really able to enjoy on the east coast due to what seemed like perpetual clouds and excessive light pollution. Around this time I also bought my first DSLR, a canon 40D and a tripod. From here it was a natural progression for me to point the camera skyward. I was absolutely blown away by what the camera could capture at night. Making images of wilderness landscapes at night soon became and absolute obsession for me.

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BASICS OF LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Here at LIGHTS FROM DREAMS, we are proud to present you with our first tutorial: The Basics of Long Exposure Photography.

If you have ever wondered how to achieve that dreamy feel of moving water or how to catch a star trail, here is a free guide that you can follow to learn more about this amazing technic that is Long Exposure Photography.

Tutorial about the basics of Long Exposure Photography

Basics of Long Exposure

You can also download the “Basics of Long Exposure” tutorial for free here:
BASICS OF LONG EXPOSURE

If you have any questions, doubts or suggestions, please write us a comment or send us an email and we will be more than happy to discuss it with you!
And, of course, we would love to see any photo that you may take after following this tutorial!

We would also like to thank the photographers who kindly allowed us to use their photos in this tutorial.