Desperation Leads to a Semi-Retired Trick: Painting with Light!

I apologize for not posting for a while. I have been inundated with requests for my pithy and nutritional thoughts, but my world travels and the demands of producing images for clients and my own art have kept me away from this specific spotlight.

And SPEAKING OF SPOTLIGHTS, I got backed into a corner (both lit and fig) last week, and this is the result. At one point, I was much enamored of light painting with people and objects (mostly people with objects, since I AM a portrait person). It was a fun technique to pull out of the bag of tricks, and the randomness and surprise at the finished result was quite an encouragement. I feel the same way about collages, which I have pretty much stopped doing too.

Today’s creative climate seems to balk at the technique heavy photos many of us were doing right before digital became dominant. And I think there is some wisdom in that change, although at times the emphasis on “lifestyle” photography has dumbed down certain things.

There are people who do beautiful and compelling work that seems very random and unlit, and then there are a bunch of people who have grabbed onto the LACK of everything that used to concern us (lighting, composition, color, gesture, information) and they have made THAT their technique. There are a bunch of buyers of photography (none that I work for, luckily) who don’t seem to notice that he emperor has no clothes.

You say “get over it, Richard!” You are so right.

On with my happy tale of re-discovery.

This object is in a room two sizes too small, and is full of metal, white ceilings and white flooring. I spend literally two hours trying the natural light (overhead fl), setting up hard lights, soft lights, ring light (closest to something good) and not being happy with anything.

Early on, I ask the king of the machine if we can turn off the lights, and we can. But I wait until that dark moment when I am sure that this will be my last assignment for a good long-term client (they have even sent me first class to a good Mexican food town on Southwest Airlines….you do the math) before turning off the lights, putting the camera on the tripod, getting out the cable release and instructing my assistant on my intent.

Luckily, she is about the last person under 27 who has the old school training (plus she is SMART), so it is easy. I use the modeling light of one of my Dynalite heads, paint away in the dark, and even throw in a bit of defocus on some of them (not too ideal as the lens was too wide and focused too much in the middle of its distance range). It is the right approach, as it keeps the light soft, but not too even, and does away with a bunch of pesky shadows and highlights. I am gratified, and filled with photographic nutrition. I even did it without all the old school preparations (full black Ninja gear, foil to prevent light leaks etc). Is it genius? Not really. But it is a very nice and timely solution to a problem (after all, what are we but problem solvers?). And this is a straight image…no dodge and burn, baby, burn.

I had high hopes that the magazine would be able to run it big, but alas, space constraints prevented them from running this one. I shot it for a double truck, and it would have been really nice that way…so much information. Oh well.

My next post will talk about my resurrection of yet another old favorite of mine…the collage! I PROMISE it within a week….


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