NIGHTSCAPES 2018/2019 Begins!

It all started last night in Roundhay Park – our winter of light painting around Roundhay Park saw us using torches and gels to colour the world!

New for 2018 is a “Manker MK 35” torch – this claims to have a 1.4Km beam – it does shine a hell of a long way, and with its very narrow beam, its great for detail work. Think of it as a fine brush, whereas other torches are more like thicker airbrushes. 

This photo was just the MK35 torch pointing at the ground as I walked to the bandstand – you can see how narrow the line it makes is. 

I’ve been looking for a torch like this for years – hopefully, the high price tag will pay off when we go to Gordale Scar, where I hope to paint cliffs hundreds of yards away. 

Technique

NIGHTSCAPES is a course for experienced photographers, so we assume you know all the “techy” stuff – you can set ISO/SHUTTER/APERTURE, read your histogram and make changes etc. You do know how bulb mode works to get a 2-minute exposure etc. etc. 

So the technique really was all creative and torch-based. Here’s the process in a nutshell

  1. get a focus sorted
  2. compose the shot
  3. discuss the scene and what we could light
  4. work out colours – essentially we have yellow, orange, light red, dark red, purple, dark blue, lighter blue and green in the bag
  5. work out a route
  6. start the cameras and walk into the scene and do the lighting
  7. review the results – did it work? too bright? too dark? 
  8. learn from the first shot and adjust!

It’s really as simple as that – but all creative things can be boiled down to a few steps like that, a painting could be described as “1 dip brush in paint, 3move brush over canvas, 3 goto step 1” 😉

Some results

We started at the top pond in the park. 

It’s got a fountain which you can colour with your torch if the “throw” is long enough – throw is the term for how far the beam goes. On this photo, the XM35, a “long thrower” was green, and the foreground (using my 3-LED Sky Ray wider thrower) was orange. This was the first shot with 2 torches in action. 

Next to test the XM35 with a very thick red gel, one which reduces the brightness of the torch massively, I shone it at the fountains for a full 30 seconds. Considering it’s one of the most powerful throwers you can buy, it’s not massively bright, so beware when using red gels – they do need a lot of lumens! (Lumens is a measure of torch power).

Next the band stand. 

This first one had us walking around with torches pointed at the floor to create a pattern of coloured lines. Then Lee went into the bandstand with the Sky Ray at the end to light the inside, I used the purple gel and XM35 to add a bit of colour to the outside. 

A pure shot, the outside was lit at the top with the XM35 from a distance, the lower parts with the SKy Ray and yellow gel at close quarters. A little light spill in the foreground created texture in the leaves and grass. 

On the way to the water tower, we stopped for a shot of the avenue – here we split up, green sky ray to the right, red XM35 to the left – this gives a nice mix of colour as you go into the distance. 

 

At the water tower, we started with lots of colours to create this early shot – it’s a bit like a Pride flag!

The idea was a red interior and blue top with the XM35, then green steps and yellow ring on the “patio” at the top of the steps. It came out very jolly!

 

Later on I tried just the purple gel, shooting inside the water tower. This was a 4-minute exposure allowing the stars to leave little light trails if you look carefully

Simplicity is often worth trying!

Another simple shot but with the green gel instead – this time you can actually see green in the oculus at the top of the tower

And finally an RGB shot – red was from behind the camera with the XM35, green with the sky ray from 9 oclock, blue with the XM35 at 3 oclock

And finally on the way back to the cars, we found this stunning leafless tree – so I demonstrated my shadow technique. 

Do you want to join us?

All in all a fantastic night – not too cold either – lots of torch work and virtually no need to teach any camera skills, which is the purpose of this workshop series. 

We are aiming it at experienced photographers who enjoy a new challenge – and don’t mind standing in fields, in the dark, in winter!

It’s amazing fun and well worth the effort.