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Playing with Light

Of course light is the key to any photograph. We all know that. But how often to do we think about what we can do with various sources of light? The sun, room lights, camera speedlights and studio flash systems are all on any photographer's mind when thinking about light. But what other kinds of lights might we try to work with?

I started to experiment with some other light sources many years ago but became frustrated when I could not create what I had in mind. But while I was not happy with the results I was getting, the ideas seemed promising. I let the project lie for a few years but I have, every now and again, thought about what I might be able to accomplish with it. 

Recently I returned to this project. Initially, to keep the process simple, I am using just a couple of simple flashlights and a very dark space (my garage). The results so far have been very encouraging. Enough so that I am keen to continue experimenting and exploring. Maybe soon I will have to try a number of other light sources.

There are issues with the technique I am using that I have found  must be taken into account. You can see in this portrait of Alina, her face looks kind of creepy, suddenly too wide in the middle. I am using a very long shutter speed to give me time to move the light around, effectively "painting" her with light. It is difficult for a model to remain completely still during these long exposures. Any motion at all can create strange effects. But not all odd effects are bad, of course, many can be quite interesting. 

The is quite a range of colour in the light from flashlights. Some are quite warm others very cool. The range is really quite wonderful.

By carefully "painting" in just the right areas, one can enhance or subdue various body features. I have always had a thing for rim lighting, lighting just the edge of bodies and other objects. I think this technique will lend itself quite nicely to this effect, I just have to find the right position of camera, model & me to create it.

I love the idea that I have much more direct effect over the look of my images as compared to what one gets with more traditional light sources.

Now I must start to experiment with other sources besides flashlights. I will continue with flashlights too, of course, but I am already thinking about trying glow sticks, for example. In the interest of safety (the model's especially) I'll avoid things like matches or firework sparklers for the time being - though I think there is some very cool opportunities there too!)

Please stay tuned for more ideas on this subject.

Larry WilliamsonComment