Four quick steps to perfect light orbs
It can be tricky to master creative shooting of landscapes, and there’s only so much you can do to capture a vista that’s truly unique to you
It can be tricky to master creative shooting of landscapes, and there’s only so much you can do to capture a vista that’s truly unique to you. Light painting is a popular way to really bring a landscape to life, and creating orbs adds a colourful kick to any image.
Over the next few pages, you’ll discover the equipment and tricks you need to incorporate light orbs in your photography. The most important part of your shoot is to have the correct equipment to hand.
Light orbs are relatively unique and different to conventional methods of photography, so you’ll need to consider the technical elements of your shoot – in particular, how to set up your camera to compensate for the bright light in a night-time scene. However, while the best time to capture orbs is under the cover of darkness, it’s possible to shoot orbs in daylight too by adjusting your exposure time.
Light painting can be a magical process, and one that’s actually very simple to master once you’ve understood the basic requirements. When you’re confident shooting light orbs, experiment by shooting multiple orbs, or by mixing orbs with other kinds of light painting.
What you’ll need
DSLR camera with Bulb mode
A powerful torch
1 Use a tripod A tripod is going to be essential for this shoot. The exposure time for this shot will be pretty long so it is imperative that the camera remains completely motionless. If the camera moves during the exposure, then the final image will not be sharp.
2 Switch to Bulb mode Once the camera is set on the tripod, switch your camera’s shooting mode to Bulb. As it’s going to be an extremely long exposure, you might find it useful to turn on your camera’s long-exposure noise reduction setting.
3 Include a marker Next you should add a marker into your shot. This will be what you set the focus to and also mark where the orb will be – a pebble or a coin is perfect. It’s important to include this marker, as you need to know where each revolution will cross over in order to achieve a neat, symmetrical light orb.
4 Use Live View and a torch Use the Live View function in tandem with a torch illuminating the area you are photographing. This will enable you to better see the composition and set the focus point on the marker. Use autofocus to focus the camera, before switching it back to manual focus.
5 Take a test shot It’s important to take test shots, as it will help you to get your camera settings right. You need to work out the correct exposure time so that your surrounding landscape is well exposed. Our settings were: ISO 200, f5 and Bulb mode – shooting in RAW is important too.
6 Get the shot Having an assistant for the final shot is helpful – they can start the exposure with a remote trigger while you spin the lights over the marker. When you have finished spinning the assistant should cover the lens to give you time to walk out of the shot. Uncover the lens and finish the exposure.
Build a spinner
Make an orb spinner for consistent results
The kind of results you achieve from your light painting will depend entirely on your choice of lighting, and creating an orb-spinning device is a simple way to achieve symmetrical results. For a more in-depth look, check out Gilliver’s ebook at www.davidgilliver.com/photography.
1 Use a drill Attach a pole to a drill. To do this, you will need to find a way of attaching a metal screw to the middle of the pole. This is what the drill will attach to, and it will enable you to spin the pole around when you activate the drill.
2 Attach the LEDs Stick several LEDs to each end of the pole using masking tape. I normally use three LEDs on each end, as this allows me to create several strands of light when I am spinning the pole around.
1 Crop your image Upload the RAW files to Lightroom, and do any necessary cropping in order to fix or enhance your composition.
2 Saturation and white balance Now make any needed adjustments to the white balance and up the saturation levels to give the light painting more impact.
3 Contrast levels Next, look to tweak the Blacks and Highlights in the shot to improve the overall level of detail captured. This can really help the final shot, particularly because it’s quite common to lose a lot of detail in the Black levels during night photography.
4 Noise reduction Shooting at night will always mean that you experience slightly higher levels of noise in your shots than normal. Lightroom is a great editing suite for reducing noise levels, which can be a real saviour for night photography and light painting.