Photo Phun….?

4 08 2011

My wife happens to be Mindie Hilton of BaconTime with the Hungry Hungry Hypo.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her?  If not, you should probably look her up because she only has the most spectacular blog in the world.  I tried to pay homage to her on July 4th by writing her name in sparklers.  Making pretty designs with sparklers is always a hoot.  But, did you know that there is a way to photograph your designs?  I know right?  It is actually very simple.  So let’s get started…..

What you will need:

  • A camera.  Either a DSLR or one that you can manipulate the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
  • Sparklers or a flashlight.  Streamlight makes a cool series of lights called “Stylus”.  You can get them in a set of four different colors.  We’ll cover the different colors later.
  • Tri-pod
  • Remote shutter release (Not entirely necessary, but will help big time.)
  • The biggest thing you are going to need is… has to be DARK!

All right, we should probably start this little lesson with some education.  What people fail to realize is cameras don’t “take a picture” per say.  The sensor on the inside of the camera captures light that passes through the shutter and aperture.  Being able to control the shutter and aperture allows you to be able to control how much light reaches the sensor.  The easiest way to describe it is like this.  Imagine yourself standing in front of a window.  Now if your looking outside on a sunny day through a big window, you might have to squint a little to see better right?  Well the window your looking out of is what the aperture is on a camera.  Basically the window that you’re looking out of.  Now for the shutter and it’s speed.  The shutter is like the blinds that are on the window you’re standing in front of (go with me).  If you were able to raise and lower the blinds very fast, on that window, on that very sunny day… would probably get a pretty good picture of what’s out side.  If you were to open and close the blinds half as fast as you did the first time, you would probably let in to much light and have to squint again.  I hope this is starting to make a little sense.  You can manipulate the shutter speed (blinds) and aperture (window) to different speeds and sizes to make the picture as clear and easy on the eyes as possible.  The right speed coupled with the perfect size window can lead to some beautiful images “captured” on your sensor (your brain).

Alright enough of the boring stuff.  If you are interested though in more of the science behind taking awesome pictures, visit  I’m always going back for some continuing education.  On to the cool stuff!

I used a Canon Rebel T2i with an 18-55mm lens to capture all of these “Light Drawing” images.  The hardest part about taking these pictures was waiting for it to get dark.  In order for these pictures to come out, you need to all but lock the shutter open until you want it to close.  Remember what we talked about earlier, if the shutter stays open to long with too much light coming in, you photo will be overexposed.  Think of it as burning the light onto the sensor.  You don’t want any other light getting in your way.  At lease for this project.
O.K., so now it’s dark and we can have some fun.  Find a place where you wan to shoot your photos and have plenty of room.  Second, set up your tripod (A super steady platform is an absolute must!).  Now is where your adjustable camera comes into play.  If it has a manual mode, I would use that.  Manual mode gives you complete control over everything on your camera.  Switch your camera to the longest shutter possible.  On DSLR cameras, a “bulb” setting is often available.  When you are in “bulb” you can release the shutter and it will stay open until you hit the button again to close it.  If you don’t have “bulb” setting, your camera will tell you how long the shutter will stay open.  All cameras vary.  You just have to make sure to complete your drawing by the time the shutter closes.   With your porch light on, move to where you would like to make your art.  Have someone focus the camera on you (if you have autofocus, turn it off).  Once the camera is focused on you, you can turn off your porch light.  Now is the time to plant out the design for your picture.  You might want to practice the motions a couple of times.  Keep in mind if you are going to write something, it is going to be reversed and backwards.  You have to write it that way because you don’t want to stand between your art and the sensor.  A lot of times, only a ghostly image of yourself can be seen in addition to your art.  Anyway, after practicing your drawing, it’s go time.  If you don’t have a remote shutter switch, I would set the timer on your camera for about ten seconds before it starts the exposure.  This will give you time get in position.  On “bulb” setting you can start the exposure and actually walk through it with out being picked up.  Light your sparkler or turn on your flashlight and make your magic!  Once you’re done hit your remote shutter button and close the shutter.  It might take a minute for your camera to process the info and show you a photo, but once it does….you’ll be amazed.

This one is for Mindie, my bride.  Thank you for encouraging me to do this post, and for being the most awesome mommy in the world for our boys!

Here is a site by photographer Troy Paiva  All of his photos are taken in the dead of night with just a couple of flashlights.  Notice the tracks of the stars.  You can check out his how it’s done page for this whole process probably better explained!

Thanks for stopping by!




2 responses

9 08 2011

Brilliant!Of course, she IS amazing! =)

9 08 2011

Awww that is so sweet! How many wives can say their husband did that for them..not many! Mindie you are one lucky lady..and I Heart You Too 🙂 All that romance in the air calls for a night of dinner and dancing don't cha think? :)

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