Steph: I love these photos and they are hard to grasp at the beginning (you have to write backwards!) but once you have it down pat, there is so much room for creativity. You can write words, draw objects, make a design. There are even special torches you can buy for these photos that are different colours and thickness. My tip is to use both hands when light painting - one to hold the torch and one to hide the light between letters/objects to avoid a joining line.
Phil: The first step is putting your camera on a tripod and framing the shot (you will likely want to use a wide focal length and turn any image stabilization off). Then it is useful to do a test shot (make sure you use a shutter release or delayed timer) to make sure that the light painting will remain within the frame and to get an idea of how long you need to leave the shutter open for (15 seconds is probably a good starting point). From your test picture you can adjust the frame and shutter, iso and aperture settings. The shutter speed will mainly be determined by how long the light drawing takes. ISO can be decreased if picture is too bright and increased if too dark and aperture is already wide open (it is normally best to decrease aperture value first in these types of shots before increasing ISO). If after shutter and ISO adjustments have been made picture is still too bright you can increase the aperture value.
Tip: If your camera has trouble focusing you may need to use manual focus.
S: We have only ever pulled this off a couple of times because it’s all about getting the steel wool to light on fire at the right time. The steel wool from the supermarket is much harder to light with a match than the type you buy from a hardware store. Also, if it’s quite windy it makes it a little harder to light up. The idea of steel wool is to make pretty spirals and designs. In order to do this you need to place the steel wool into a whisk (attached to a strap to spin it), light it on fire and spin it around in the dark until it goes out. We We have also used sparklers in lieu of steel wool but they give a different effect.
Tip: Try using a 9V battery to light the steel wool
P: Set up is the same as above for light painting. You normally want to spend a bit more time setting up so you don’t waste steel wool/sparkles on bad shots.
S: I actually don’t have anything to do with these shots. From what I can tell, Phil just points the camera upwards and takes the picture.
P: For ideal star photos you normally need to find a place away from light pollution (far away from city lights and at a time when the moon is close to new). Once it is dark enough and have found a spot to set up camera on tripod you will want to make sure that you are focused to infinity (or so all the stars are in focus and not blurry). You will want to set your lens to the largest aperture (smallest value). Normally you want the longest shutter speed possibly without causing movement in the stars, to calculate this shutter speed take 500 and divide by the focal length you are using (Full Frame equivalent). For a 24mm lens (16mm crop sensor) this works out to a shutter speed of about 20 seconds). For star shots you normally want ISO set fairly high without creating too much noise. Most people with full frame or new crop sensor cameras will limit this to around 16,000 or 32,000 but this will depend on camera and how you use the photo.
Remember you will need to use the delayed timer or a shutter release and you should have image stabilization turned off.
Tip: Shoot in RAW (or RAW+JPG) so you can better edit your shots later.
Sxx (and Phil)
Will you go to the Prom with me?
One night at Wilsons Prom
A quick tour of New Zealand - South Island Edition
A quick tour of New Zealand - North Island Edition
Phillip (not Philip's) Island