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My Experience with light painting photography By Nicholas Mrnarevic

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Nicholas Mrnarevic on his experience with light painting (website | Facebook | Instagram):

Using light as a medium in long exposure photography is not a new idea, I’m just interested inn shedding some light (pun intended) on my techniques and show some examples of my work. My name is Nicholas Mrnarevic; I spend a lot of my time shooting portraits and headshots and concerts for teenybopper magazines. I shoot with a D800 and my main lens used for all of my light paining is the AF NIKKOR 14mm 2.8 D. You do not need this lens to get good shots, really any lens will work, and I just prefer this one.

You MUST MUST MUST use a tri-pod. If you don’t have one, get one. Nikon MC-30 shutter release button, or what I use, the Nikon WR-R10 receiver and wireless remote. I have kids, so I did a lot of this stuff alone, in my living room at night like a creep so I needed the wireless receiver, but I do recommend getting someone to help its much easier that way. I ended up having to use the controller on the floor and press the button with my big toe on some shots because I needed both my hands; I’m a good multi-taker.

Lets start with my first attempt: I was using my red cross plug in battery night light to get these, don’t judge its all I had when I tried the first time:

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I put my camera on ISO 400 to cut out as much light as I could. For all of these I put the camera on “BULB” exposure so I can control how long the shutter stays open with the remote control. I don’t really know how long the exposures were for these, I just held the button down for as long as it took me to finish whatever it was I was drawing,

This is the shot I needed to use my big toe on, I was holding my acoustic. For this I kept the ISO at 400 again, It also gave me my first example of what NOT to do: point the flashlight at the lens it leaves bursts like the one you see near my left hand.

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After a few more attempts by myself I decided to use my son Julian for a few, then he had the bright idea to give Darth Vader a light saber. He is 4. I know, I’m lucky. I shoot in the dark a lot and often use bulb setting to achieve effects where you splash a quick second or less of light on the subject to get just them lit in the shot and keeping everything else dark. We used that technique here with Julian he was holding the flashlight for the streak.

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Ok now, here’s where stuff started to get interesting. Close to where I live there is an abandoned psychiatric hospital that they allow people to roam for photography, again I know, I’m very lucky. So we were there a few weeks ago and decided to explore the space a little:
I used a higher ISO when shooting outside because I wanted to get the background we were in, it’s a creepy place and I really wanted to convey that. I had larger flashlight with me for these, it’s a little hand held led with 24 lights on the broad side of it, and I found it at the bookstore for 4 bucks. It works incredibly well.

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My family owns a restaurant. One night I had the idea to try and get some light stick figures inside the restaurant. It was incredibly difficult, not so much trying to get the photo, but drawing in air is incredibly challenging. The depth perception for me was the issue, I tried my best to fin a point on a wall or something as a guide for stick figures, and it was damn tricky. During this shoot the Police showed up. You know, it’s not really okay to be flailing around inside of a dark restaurant at night with flashlights, but they know me so they were cool about it. I also got some nice light tunnels as a result.

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Here’s where we are today: I found this great type of light at birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese for a friend of my son’s. It is the game changer I was looking for. We must all say thank you to the rave scene that was very popular for a little while there, because those people looooooooooove light. One of them created the greatest light invention of all time. The fingertip led light. I ordered 100 of them from a certain rain forest themed website for 30 bucks, all different colors. It allows you to write more clearly in the air, especially in cursive. Which they don’t teach in school anymore, btw. I’m also a fan of EL Wire (electroluminescent) it creates great effects in the dark. I recently did product shots for a clothing company and I used the technique in a gig for the first time.

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So that’s that! I hope you enjoyed my examples. I will definitely be using more light paining in gigs coming up for 2014; I’m excited to share those as well. Thank you so much for reading!

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • http://www.winniedesignandphoto.com/ Zach Winnie

    Does it matter how many lumens your light source puts out, or is it dependent on your exposure time? I’ve seen flashlights with different colors/gels where the lumen output/brightness can be changed — I was wondering if those are worth it.

    • AM

      Light painting depends on various factors. Definitely brightness of the source is one, then the ISO, aperture, and how fast or slow you move the light.
      The exposure time, combined with the ISO, and aperture will determine the exposure of the background.

    • Groosome

      There’s some awesome light painting work here http://www.flickr.com/groups/lightjunkies/ Some people even change aperture during a shot (manual) depending on the lights being used for different aspects to control exposure.

  • http://www.winniedesignandphoto.com/ Zach Winnie

    Does it matter how many lumens your light source puts out, or is it dependent on your exposure time? I’ve seen flashlights with different colors/gels where the lumen output/brightness can be changed — I was wondering if those are worth it.

  • FDF

    This look really cool, I think. It’s very difficult to judge by such tiny images. You don’t need a 36MP camera to create 0.04MP images, a phone would suffice for that.

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