Thursday, November 27, 2008

Painting the town with light

Painting the town with light

So, the reality of shooting at night is that it gets dark. Yep, it can be really dark. So, then the issue is, you need to bring your own lights…..even lights you want to use as a basis for adding color to a scene.

One of the darkness challenges in the Spokane area is not unlike other communities. Yet, locally we have some very interesting sculptures, which are at best “bland,” and at worst, “ugly,” after dark. Conversely these sculptures would easily be observed as the artist rendered them, in daylight. So, night shooting requires an entirely new approach in trying to make sense of some local art….including adding some color.

In the photo “Aliens” (, this art project was huge, yet it was invisible after dark. When I brought a group of photographers to this location to get them familiar with “painting with light,” the members of the group were not sure there was even a piece of art there. So, in my own visit, the challenge was to light the object, and include the use of color. Obviously, using red and blue filters do something to the sculpture, but in the real world this location is almost totally dark. This location was easy to paint, and the camera settings had to move very little as the color was added over a series of shots.

In another photo “Alive,” (, this location was dark, but considerable lighter than the other one. Yet, after dark, there was no color, and ambient lighting was placed to light newly planted trees and not the sculpture. So, it was time to add color once again, and in this case the sculpture was painted with red, amber, and blue filters using a Big Max handheld flashlight. Since this sculpture was stainless steel, each color reflected from one surface to another, and color bounced pretty much everywhere.

The Wandermere waterfalls ( has been written about before, yet it is one more example of something which can be lost by darkness, yet brought to life is you add colored lights/filters. Trying to find a balance of objects in the darkness and then adding color is nothing short of fun. There are many other things which can be painted with light, even in very dark conditions.

One of the darker areas, yet totally interesting, is the Olmstead overlook, at the extreme west side of Liberty Park. ( To say this area can become dark is an understatement. Yet, for a target area to attempt to use color and light, it is perfect. There are old pathways, rock walls, and lots of shadows. If any of you want a place to go with endless possibilities, this would be it. Further, most of the area is a great start for handheld lights which would not interfere or distract passing motorists. On the south side of this area is I-90, so your primary areas of interest will be well away from the east-west bound freeway traffic.

There are many other places to discover and toy with painting with light, and I am sure there are more for me to discover. I’ll be taking some local photogs (Spokane Camera Club) out for a few more night experiences, and depending on time available I may take them to the Liberty Park area.

Any of you other photogs that want to hook up with my night groups, just let me know. If any of you can help me coach future night shooting groups, we can get each phog a little more personal attention.

Enjoy painting the town with color. I totally enjoy it.


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