I’m really excited to introduce you all to a really nice woman, a great photographer and a very creative person; Deanne Holmer (or just Dee to her friends) and her Husband Bill – light twirler extraordinaire! Add to all this she is a fellow Melbournite and my introduction basic Light Painting. I first met Dee and Bill several months ago, at my very first light painting workshop [post here], and was struck by not only their knowledge, sense of humour, but their creativity towards this art form. We have corresponded over the last few months and I thought it might be interesting to do a post on their work. Light painting is an art form in itself, I guess not for everyone, but when done well, it is truly inspiring. Not to mention A LOT OF FUN!
So what is Light Painting?
Light painting, or light drawing, is a photographic technique in which images are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera. Light painting can also describe works where the camera itself is moved during exposure.
– Wikipedia (Some interesting history to be found here too).
Orb of spinning, flaming steel wool in Hosier Lane, Melbourne
So I thought it best to start at the beginning and asked how did Dee (and Bill) get started with Light Painting?
I have always loved photography and it was while Bill and I were
at Archie’s Creek, that I began to take it more seriously. We were living on a farm surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of beautiful rolling hills. I did a short course via Foons, the name of a photo shop in Wonthaggi. I was tinkering around one night, where I set my camera up on a tripod and waited for Bill to get home. It was my first light trail and the bug began to bite. This moved onto the both of us scouring the best spots for light trails. I started following a photographer named the Photo Extremist. It was via him that the bug had truly bitten. So I ordered a few lights and then Bill and I began to try different lights and patterns. This also included the very popular steel wool technique which we practiced on a beach so we were well away from danger.
Both Dee and Bill are so good at what they do, they make it look effortless, which then became the question, how long have they been doing Light Painting?
We began Light Painting in 2012/13 and since then we have slowly added to our tools and technique. But in the last year we have been more and more serious and have hosted a number of workshops. [I went to one a few months ago, it was awesome, and just did another one of the weekend, that’s actually me and Moth on the far left 🙂 ]
Courtesy Melbourne Photography Excursions
What inspires you to keep going, to strive for new ideas?
Other than we thoroughly enjoy what we do, we are both creative people. Bill being a passionate electrician and loves to have fun and enjoys trying new ideas. As for me, I was a chef for many years till health changed that. I have always loved creative things, with photography being a big part of it. I love to create different lights and see what patterns those lights will make. I make a lot of the lights and Bill bails me out when I fry things.
What is your favorite aspect of light painting?
We both are big kids and love to share the fun, because it is a fun thing to do. The most awesome thing is when we see people bouncing about like kids. I will never tire of hearing the sound of excitement. When we hear that and see how happy people are, we are happy. [Yup! that was me and Moth – big kids bouncing off the walls having the time of our life].
So what is involved in actually creating one of your lighting rigs?
It depends on what we are setting out to achieve, some things are just bunching up cheap battery operated LEDs, a bit of chain and a key ring [these then just get spin around, like a lasso]. Then there is using LED lighting extrusion and placing different led strips to them. As for our most technical tool, we use the same extrusion and put in a 1 meter length of individually addressable LED lights. It is then controlled via Arduino compatible microprocessors and C programming.
Our tools are constantly evolving and with the technology, with lights these days the only limits are cost and time. We are constantly looking for ideas and it can be trial and error. There is a handful of specialized tools available but they are often very expensive. Such as performance lights, some of them can be upwards of $1000. Both of us are pretty good with making Light Painting tools. I mostly come up with the ideas and Bill makes them work or fixes them when I fry things. Bill is an electrician and loves all things technical, did an electronics course years ago which has been a huge help in the creating of our Light Painting Tools.
What is involved in setting up a shoot?
Generally it is finding a dark location somewhere that has a good backdrop. Like an abandoned factory, a tunnel, even near a popular landmark. We also check everything is ready to use, batteries charged, everything is working and so on.
What are the dangers and pitfalls? Has anything bad ever happened?
We haven’t had anything bad happen (touch wood). We put a lot of energy in to making sure things are as safe as possible. We are essentially lurking in dark places, which alone are dangerous. You are also spinning, waving, walking and you could hit yourself or someone else. Bill and I have been tinkering with Light Painting for some time now and we do make things look very easy. And most things are easy but in the scenario of creating an orb it takes time to get a good technique. We are very serious when we say to people NOT to do Steel Wool paints. This is because it’s hot metal and you could burn yourself quite badly or someone nearby. Steel Wool and lenses don’t mix and could destroy a lens with just a spark. So we keep as far away as possible and tell others to do the same.
What is the coolest, craziest shot you have attempted?
It would have to be when we got the Addressable Led wand working. It took us ages to do but with the help bunch of Melbourne Western Suburbs Hackers (M.E.S.H) and a fellow photographer friend (David Gilliver, not the UK David, the Aussie one). Both were amazing helping us getting it working. David, Bill and I have worked together with light painting numerous times. The collective minds of the three of us resulted in the Light Wand being more user friendly and more functional too.
Name one place you would adore to do a shoot if it was possible?
Stonehenge in the UK, it’s such a mysteriously interesting place, which could look amazing lit up.
And then finally, because everyone always seems to want to to know – what camera gear do you use?
I use a Nikon D800E and a Nikon D750, both on Manfrotto 190XPROB Legs and 804RC2 Heads. I mostly use Trigmaster Plus remote release triggers, I have two of them as they are both sender and receiver. They also have long distance capabilities and a heap of other great things. I use a variety of lenses based on the location and what light paint technique being shot. I love the combination of my D750 with my 14mm Samyang the most. I also love my 24-70 Tamron they are my most used lenses with Light Painting.
Well I hope everyone enjoyed reading about Light Painting, if you have never done it, it is such fun, I thoroughly recommend it, especially if you are in Melbourne. I would like to Thank Dee (and Bill) for A) allowing me to feature their work and Dee’s photos, and B) For being such fantastic hosts at our workshop, hoping for many more to come!
You can find more of Dee’s images and follow her on Facebook, or Blog.
Til next time…………….happy snapping