Light Painting

In the earlier days of summer (after my return from a great four months in New York City) mother nature decided to simply flood Texas. Streets turned into rivers as the rain poured everyday. West of downtown Dallas sits the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The massive white structure sits above a massive strip of land known as the Trinity River. Typically dried out, the Trinity was actually flooded and truly looked like a river.  I decided to embark on an adventure to the site where I took a series of unique "light painting" photos with my friend Leighton. 

Leighton was very creative and precise with his technique. He brought a pixel stick, flashlights, christmas lights, and a tool of his own (lights taped to a popcorn wagon wheel). After watching him in action, I decided to ask Leighton his story when it came to light painting.

"Light painting is a form of photography that I have treasured ever since I discovered the long exposure setting on my tiny, inexpensive digital camera in seventh grade. I really had no idea what I was doing when I first tried light painting and with no prior experience in taking photos, my paintings were limited to drawing amorphous shapes and blobs in the air with an LED flashlight hoping that my “art” had been captured in the frame." 

"After many more attempts at creating something with limited equipment, referring to the internet for help, and begging my parents to buy me new tools, my knowledge of photography and love for light painting blossomed. I often resorted to making my own tools. Light painting quickly became one of the main consumers of my time not only because I loved the results of my photos but also because of the ways it challenges my creativity and understanding of photography."

"In a pitch-black situation where you have limited time to create a piece of carefully planned art with any wrong move or flash of ambient light potentially threatening the results of your work, every action must be carefully calculated and executed to create the desired product. But even though a plan must be formulated beforehand, some of the best results come from just winging it. When I have no idea what sort of picture I want I often just pick up a white flashlight, swing it around in the frame, and play around until I can come up with my next plan of action. Additionally, knowing what f-stop or ISO is appropriate for certain situations, understanding the effects a longer shutter-speed could have on the results, or understanding what elements in the setting of your photo could potentially take away from or ruin the product are examples of using simple camera skills and situational awareness in light painting. Even the minutia of an environment could ruin the result of the photo, and every variable must be taken into consideration to create something special." 

"This attention to detail and surroundings is so attractive to me for some reason. Some of my best work results from under-pressure conditions, and the extra stress factor is even more soothing to me when I see my hard work reflected in my photos. There are some days when I just stay up all night trying to perfect a single idea that I tried to capture countless times, and even if I don't succeed in the ways I wish, seeing my hard work is a reward in itself. 

One of the things that really drew me to Leighton's answer was his willingness to collaborate when it came to light painting. Leighton even said "the one thing that I love the most about light painting is that it is terribly difficult to do alone. After so much time spent doing it by myself I realized much more fun and productive it is to paint with a friend. All of my best work has been when someone has been assisting me, be it as a fellow photographer or even a model. Light painting connects me to people that I never would have known or liked otherwise, and it strengthens the relationships I have with my photography friends."

Taking photos of Leighton was incredible because I learned a lot about a different aspect of photography that I was not used to. Taking the photos were difficult (that can truly be seen) because of the long exposure and the task created a whole new set of challenges for me. 


Thanks to Leighton Okada

Location: Texas