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Light Painting

August 2, 2011

Something I love about photography is the ability to make art that the human eye cannot create alone. Sometimes I get frustrated that those cookies I just baked look so much better in person than they are appearing on my camera. But other times I am pleasantly surprised by how my camera can capture a certain moment in time, a perfect pocket of beaming light, or an emotion on one’s face that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.


One camera technique that I’m always pleasantly surprised with how pictures turn out are long exposures. Many people use long exposures and tripods to get stunning shots of nature when light is low. But it can also be used in a fun way to create trails of lights from fireworks, cars wizzing through city streets, or my new favorite: light painting.

I’m actually a piro-phobiac…but in the name of taking some cool shots I decided to tag along with my brothers as they took their homemade torch down to the beach to have some fun. Who makes homemade torches? Yeah I was thinking the same thing…

I am not condoning this behavior, but it does make for a great opportunity for a budding photgrapher to test out some different settings. So next time your siblings or friends put together a flaming torch, make sure you’ve grabbed your camera first.

On manuel mode I dialed the shutter speed to the slowest option; BULB. This option allows you to hold the shutter down for as long as you want the exposure to last. Tripods always help with long exposures, but I wasn’t about to lug my (non- existent) tripod to the beach for a of couple shots.

So as my brothers swooshed and swirled the lit torch around their bodies, I kept quite the distance holding down the shutter for a couple seconds to let in fun traces of light. This was not a time for shaky hands, so I sat down and used my elbows resting on my knees as a stand- in tripod.

Okay, I lied I didn’t keep my distance the whole time. I had to give it a swirl. I was more concerned about my brother handling my camera next to the rushing ocean than I was about a flame circling my head…

One of my other favorite long exposure shots…


What’s your favorite thing to take photos of? Have you ever tried slowing down your shutter speed for a certain shot?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 8:58 am

    Katie – I love these photos. I’ve never tried long exposure shots, but I’m goggling it right now to find out….I think my camera (Nikon D3000) should allow me to use this technique!

    • August 3, 2011 9:35 am

      It should yes. Even if you don’t have the BULB setting, just setting it to a very slow shutter speed can have the same effect.

  2. Sasha Snowchild permalink
    August 2, 2011 2:19 pm

    Hey katie awesome stuff I had forgotten about that mini-waterfall pic that you had taken too. so cool!

  3. spoonfulofsugarfree permalink
    August 2, 2011 3:35 pm

    I had no idea you could even do that with camera! Sheesh….I’ll just leave the pictures to you and sit back and watch your gorgeous shots!

  4. August 3, 2011 8:58 am

    One time my friend used the long exposure while we waved glowsticks and it looked so cool! We were waving them so that it made words in the final picture and it looked pretty sick. Now you’re making me lean towards getting a new camera.. I just love all the neat things you can capture in a photo!

    • August 3, 2011 9:34 am

      I was gonna comment on your post that I would SO get a camera, but I’m a bit biased considering I love photography. It’s a really fun hobby, and you can learn so much where as an iphone is more just an everyday device to be used. Both are seriously good options though! And let me know if you have questions about what camera to choose too!

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