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Light. Science & Magic

January 11, 2012

T h e   B o o k

You will find instructional texts for every nook of the photographic world. Some quite good. But if I could only have one, this would probably be it.

First published in 1990, years before digital, it is still on the shelf at B&N. The photography section has a constant turn over which makes it even more amazing this old relic is still there next to the latest greatest, 21 years later.

It’s for good reason. Light is light. Natural or man-made. The word Photograph literally means  a record of light. Learn how light works and you’ll be able to record it better. This book tells you how light works.

For my current 366 project I wanted to do something with one of my books, so picking this one was a no brainer. Just like the wife. I chose light painting for some magic. Just like Picasso.

Kick-off photo aside, my 366 involves limiting myself to a single prime lens ($99 Canon 50mm f/1.8 ii, affectionately called the “nifty fifty”), one flash and portable (read cheap-er) light modifiers.

Here I used a tripod (although bean bags would work), a light box made from a LED flashlight and foam core ($6 & $4) and 2 LED light sticks from Home depot (3 for $4.99). I use the red, blue and green ones because manipulation of RGB channels is an important part of B&W conversions and you know I love the B&W. These also come in a rainbow of colors for you hippies.

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Here is the foam core  light wand and the two colored sticks (shown with dog for scale)

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I set a 30 sec exposure, focused and turned off the lights. A few frames narrowed down the f/stop and ISO combo. I kept the light sticks in my pocket, already on, but hidden from camera. For the first 7 or 8 sec I used the light wand to expose the monkey, book, and chair. Then clicked it off, 20 seconds left to paint in the light streaks.

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If you want a color image, then you’re done. No flashes, no triggers, no Photoshop. Image below SOOC (straight out of camera).

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By comparing the color to the B&W you can see how the separate color channels are treated to arrive at the final B&W image. The red channel is muted to become the ghost light. (Most editing programs, even the free ones, have presets for B&W if you don’t want to set the channel sliders manually).

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Any camera that allows a long exposure will work, the lights are cheap and no two images are the same.

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