Teaching Materials - Exercise

Light Painting

Name of Artist Educator: Enoch Cheung
Level:
Excercise Category: Technical exercise

The idea of light painting is one that makes use of single exposures to capture light trails from moving subjects.


Concept / Inspiration:

Photography allows a moment to freeze in time and movement to be captured. We can show motion in single-exposure photos, while two or more images are superimposed in multiple-exposure photos. The idea of light painting is one that makes use of single exposures to capture light trails from moving subjects.


Goals:

Students will learn basic camera operation, especially aperture sizes and shutter speeds.  It is an exercise for the students to familiarise the basic concept and operation of photography.


Materials / Equipment:

  • Dark-coloured paper backdrop
  • Two camera flashes
  • Cameras
  • Tripods
  • Torches

Location:

Classroom and outdoors


Workshop Description:

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  1. Set up dark backdrop in a classroom and place one flash on each side of it.
  2. Fix a camera onto a tripod facing the backdrop.
  3. The workshop can be divided into the following parts to let students understand better how a camera works:

 

Part One Capturing motion
Have students form groups of two. Student A will stand in front of the backdrop and keep moving during the shoot. Student B, the photographer, will capture the motion of student A using a slow shutter speed.

Part Two Light painting
Switch off the light. Student A stays in front of the backdrop and waves a torch to “paint” in the air; student B uses a long-duration shutter speed to capture the movement of light.

 

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Part Three Lighting up a subject
Students will light up a subject in the dark with their torches to reveal its details in a long-exposed image. First of all, they will go to their target location during daytime to look for a suitable subject (a pavilion was chosen in the example). Then, they will go there again at night for the photo shoot. They will wave their torches in circles to illuminate the pavilion. With a long exposure, the image of the pavilion will form slowly on the photograph. This activity helps students explore a place from another perspective by illuminating a subject in the dark.

 

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Part Four Capturing movement of a dancer
Invite a model to pose and dance in front of the camera. The instructor will adjust the frequencies of the spotlight to let students experiment with various photographic effects. The spotlight will then be shifted to show the changing shadows. Let light and shadows blend together to reveal the movement and silhouette of the model. This time, a Cantonese opera actress was invited to show some performance techniques, such as fighting with a spear and flicking sleeves, in front of the camera.


Expected Outcome:

N/A


Actual Outcome:

  1. The learning atmosphere was very positive as students enjoyed working together in a team. They held their torches and imitated the thousand-armed Guan Yin.
  2. Some students were influenced by those who had tried light painting before and followed what they did. The experienced students only repeated what they knew, such as drawing patterns in the air, instead of exploring new ideas.
  3. Some of them produced normal non-action shots instead of making proper use of the flash or shutter speeds to produce motion shots.
  4. Most of the students did not have a camera with a multi-exposure mode, so they had to increase the exposure time. The duration and speed of the flash also had to be adjusted to achieve certain results. Encourage them to make use of the lighting and shutter speeds to create and innovate.

Work:

Works by Lee Wing Kei

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Student Feedback:

“The effects are fantastic.”

“The classroom isn’t dark enough. It’ll be better if we can do the light painting activity at night.”

“I learned how to make use of light and shadows. The photos I took during the workshop appeared more three-dimensional than before. It’s amazing!”


Reference Materials:

N/A