Blending Light Painting Photos in Photoshop

 Usually when doing light painting workshops, I have several people with torches all lighting the scene at the same time so we catch everything in one frame which you can view there and then on the night. 

But when you are alone, or in small groups, often it isn’t possible because you just cannot get around the subject and surroundings quick enough for one exposure, and also you are almost inevitably going to have some accidental lighting “blobs” here and there as you move around. 

So, in this tutorial I have a series of photographs I photographed alone in the Peak District. 

I used an intervalometer which is built into my camera (you can buy them for cameras which don’t have them inbuilt on Ebay and Amazon), it was set to 15 seconds at ISO 200 with an f-stop of F8 so I could get most things in the foreground Sharp. 

However, the first photograph I took was for the sky, making it as bright as possible so I could get at least a few stars in the image – I think the ISO was upped to around 3200 for this. 

Next I started the intervalometer taking photos (set it to keep going indefinitely and switch it off when you get back to the camera) and walked around the area with my torch painting things as I went along.  This gave me around ten photographs, all with different things lit. 

The tutorial takes it from that point –  starting with the raw files in Lightroom and talks you how to use Photoshop, layers and layer masks to show and hide the bits you want and get the final result.

Nightscapes 1 – The Art of Light Painting

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.