Painting with Light

by Douglas Hoffman on May 10, 2021

Having been creating photographs professionally since 1998, there are still many aspects of photography that get me excited. Recently, I had a workshop client that wanted to photograph the night sky.

We started just prior to sunset and went to Ukumahame Beach. There is a tree there that has stood the test of time and is a great subject for landscape photographs. We discussed composition and creating mood as well as the camera settings needed to create what she wanted. I introduced her to graduated and reverse neutral density filters made by Breakthrough Photography. Our second location was a beach in Makena and we arrived just as the sun set providing enough light to choose a location, set up the gear, and get a good focus lock before it got to dark.

Our plan was to use an open aperture and maintain a shutter speed under 30 seconds so the stars would be sharp. As it got darker we raised the ISO up to about 2500. We started creating portraits using a shutter speed of 25 seconds and we little by little we adjusted it to 15 seconds. The sky was exposed well but the foreground was dark. Thats when I busted out a head lamp and started painting light into the palm trees.

I turned on the light about halfway through the exposure and turned the light on and shined it on the palm trees for 4 seconds. It turned out that 4 seconds was to much so I went to three seconds. That was much better but as we continued we played around with 2 and 3 second bursts of light. The results were magical. The trees were lit, and the exposure on the night sky allowed all the millions of stars to shine. Here is one of my client Madelines images. I am so happy she sent it to me after the session.

I did not create images that night as my focus was on Madeline. I did go back to the same location a few weeks later to create some images. It was a beautiful night and I had a lot of fun trying different shutter speeds, lenses, and painting with light using 2, 3, and 4 second bursts of light. I plan to go back soon and try another lens as I have a desire to create a really wide angle environmental style portrait.

If creating images of the night sky and light painting sounds like something you want to do click here to see more information and book a date.