Judith Ponti-Sgargi  

Light-Painting Study by Judith Ponti-Sgargi

September 2020 - Light-Painting Study

September 2020 - Judith Ponti-Sgargi

Original 1

September 2020 - Judith Ponti-Sgargi

Original 2

September 2020 - Judith Ponti-Sgargi

Original 3

About the Image(s)

I. Eggs in a Dish

Settings: F/16, 38sec, ISO-100, 50mm on crop sensor camera, on tripod, triggered by remote with a 2sec. delay.

Goal: to light paint a high key image. For this exercise it is important to visualize and set the direction of the key light (flashlight), understand where shadows fall and then repaint the image to create a clean white background, and no or very minimal shadow. When setting the flashlight for the test shot, I noted that shadow fell behind the dish, under the egg on the surface, and between the egg peeking over the edge and the others. I also noted gray shadow in the upper right corner. I also saw the challenge of not over painting the eggs because of their curved shape.

I watched videos on how to edit to edit to create a high key image by decreasing contrast, saturation, and de-haze, and moving blacks and shadows to the right.

Because the image is basically white, it is already a monochrome image. In PS, I applied the BW adjustment layer, and applied various filters. I used the yellow one.

II. Antique Tools

Settings: F/16, 25sec., ISO-100, 50mm (crop sensor), tripod, 2 sec remote trigger.

The tools were placed on beige card stock. They were light painted. The direction of the key light (flash light) was set and I held the light in that position for the first exposure. Then, I evaluated the fall of shadows and determined what objects I had to paint around and under to make sure that the light fell on that area to create separation between the paper and object. I also determined which area I wished to be the focal point. In this image, I wanted to horseshoe to be the focal point. However,this was difficult to achieve because lighter colors take a shorter time to paint. To deal with this, I realized in editing I would have to burn the white area inside the horseshoe.

Because the paper has a grainy effect, I converted the image to monochrome. For this image, I used Silver Efex Pro. In SEP, I used the copper toning filter, green filter, and a border. In PS, I dodged the brighter area inside the horseshoe. In the second image, this area is not burned and I applied a sepia filter.

My challenge is understanding how to creatively use shadow. I understand that I need to paint an area sufficient to achieve separation with the background, and avoid mergers. Also, the play of light and shadow creates dimension, and interest points. How much is creative choice?

14 comments posted

Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
Your finished images are very attractive, both compositionally and in terms of lighting.
I don't know anything about light painting except that it is often used to paint bright lines in the air, or light up outdoor subjects at night. But your work here is completely different. Can you explain what the goal of this kind of light painting is vs. using conventional fixed lighting? How are these results different from, say, using a ceiling bounce flash?   Posted: 09/01/2020 18:22:36
Lance Lewin   Lance Lewin
Hi Stephen! Well, to answer your question directly...light painting has the ability to allow the artist to Add (or leave the subject in Shadow) at different degrees (or levels of intensity) then a normal Studio-like set up.

As important, light painting also allows the artist to pin-point exactly where the light will be used...far more accurately than the tools we normally use to add, diffuse or otherwise create light effects in a scene.   Posted: 09/02/2020 07:45:04

Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi

My images are still life light painting. To paint, I use a LED flashlight powered by three triple A rechargeable duracell batteries. After each light painting session, I recharge the batteries.

To diffuse the light, I put waxpaper on the flashlight head. Then I insert it into a empty roll of toilet paper so that the roll extends about two inches from the top of the flash light. I cover the roll of toilet paper with electrical tape so that there is no leakage at all through the cardboard roll. Harold Ross sells a much more expensive flash and attachments but my home made solution works.

This one flashlight replaces what would require multiple light sources to illuminate.

I set my focus point and make sure the 2 sec delay for my remote is on. Then I turn off the light so that I paint with the flash light in a completely dark room.

Normally I paint from the camera right side because I am right handed.

First, I determine the direction of the main light, by holding the flashlight in my hand and directing it at the still life composition. Based on the setup and materials used, I estimate a an exposure time. For example,for the egg image, I set my time to 30 sec. Because I wanted a high key image (overexposure), I determined I needed a longer exposure time and set my time to bulb. I used my remote to both open and close the shutter.

I used f16 because this was a small enough aperture to give me sufficient time to paint. For my outdoor image last month, because the scene was large (three trees), I opened up my aperture to f8.

I set the speed to allow myself sufficient time to paint without feeling rushed.

To determine how far away to hold the flashlight from the object, a rule of thumb is to set the distance almost equal to the size of the object i.e. for an egg hold the flashlight an egg distance away (Harold Ross's rule).

It is important to maintain this sense of the direction of the main light throughout the object not to confuse the viewer. When I am painting under or behind objects to fill in shadow areas or create definition, I need to be mindful of the direction of the main light.

When light painting, one needs to continually move the flashlight not to create hot spots or overblown highlights.
The closer the light is to the object, the softer and more diffuse the light.

The camera records the light reflected back from the surface of the object. Light colors take less time to paint than dark colors.

The fascinating part of light painting, is you choose where you want to direct the light. Lingering just one second longer at a spot can create a different result from image to image.

Also, one has to understand shapes of objects and textures. If you reply back, I can show you an example with multiple objects and my thought process.   Posted: 09/01/2020 20:42:30
Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
Thank you, Judith, this is a very thorough answer. Yes, please show the example you offered. This is most interesting.   Posted: 09/02/2020 09:52:08

Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi

Here is the planning shot. I held my flashlight still for 25 secs and achieved this result, unedited. Therefore, 25 sec. is about the right time.

Note the harsh shadows under the hammer, projecting from the hammer head, by the horseshoe and around the bottom of the handle of the red object. Note, there is no detail inside the head of the red object or in the handle on camera left. For the latter there is no separation between the handle and the paper. Note also, the nice natural vignetting in the top right hand corner. Note the focal point is where the three objects meet and the horseshoe is sharp.

I painted inside the red object to create detail, over the top of the hammer to eliminate shadow, along the edge of the handle to eliminate the harsh shadow and create separation, and under the handle. This meant changing the angle of the flash light especially going under the handle of the hammer. Going under the handle, also meant I was perhaps overpainting on some parts of the paper.

One image I eliminated because I felt the shadow along the handle was too strong. In another, the shadow under the hammer seemed too sharp.

This is where I would like to have a discussion of the aesthetic of light and shadow. The PSA light painting course did not deal with this subject.

Do you know what that curved object is. The head is hinged and could be bent in such a beautiful curve as if it were supporting the horseshoe.

  Posted: 09/02/2020 18:19:26
Comment Image
Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi

Attached is an image which I did not select because the shadow around the handle of the curved object camera right. This area lacked detail and thus merged into the surface. However, I did like the slight shadow cast from the horseshoe and under the hammer and the area within the horse shoe was not blown out and the natural vignetting. Note the different feel to this image. I could try dodging that shadow area but was trying for a 100 % correct image where I only used light room global edits and took the image into PS for dust spot removal.   Posted: 09/03/2020 13:57:35
Comment Image
Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
Thanks so much for the detailed explanations of how you did this. I feel like I have had an entire course on the subject.
About the third object, I recall you are a sailor. Could it be a small boat anchor? So I Googled "small boat anchor" and here is a link to an anchor call a "plow anchor." So maybe the object is either agricultural OR nautical.
https://www.amazon.com/Yak-Gear-Bruce-Anchor-2-2-Pound/dp/B004CG7HHM/ref=asc_df_B004CG7HHM/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241931344467&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8218462360705087326&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007770&hvtargid=pla-456284762323&psc=1   Posted: 09/13/2020 16:20:48
Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi
It is not a boat anchor. We use to have a plough anchor on our boat.   Posted: 09/13/2020 18:22:42

Dianne Arrigoni   Dianne Arrigoni
Judith this is an amazing process I know nothing about really. Reading your description I am intrigued and will come back and read again to try to wrap my head around it. The resulting image you picked is beautiful. The soft light and grain is lovely with the old tools giving it a appropriately old image feeling, yet fresh. Not sure I am explaining it well but nice result.   Posted: 09/10/2020 11:33:49
Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi

On our DDG bulletin board, in the section under light and shadow, I posted more light painted images: yoga tune up ball, corn, flower backlit, and a thistle. You may be interested in comparing your leaf image backlit with what I did with a flashlight in a dark room.

JPS   Posted: 09/13/2020 18:16:08

Jose Luis Rodriguez   Jose Luis Rodriguez
Hello Judith.
Good exercise and with a very attractive result   Posted: 09/17/2020 09:49:32

Debasish Raha   Debasish Raha
Hi Judith, Liked the composition of the 'antique tools' image and lighting on the tools you were able to obtain using light painting. You may want to minimize the shadows on the digital frame (one on the left and one at the bottom) as they are distracting attention.   Posted: 09/20/2020 14:29:18

Judith Ponti-Sgargi   Judith Ponti-Sgargi

This is the challenge of light painting. To reduce a heavy shadow under the tools, I light paint under them. The result is sometimes heavier shadow in the corners and I have to remember this to light this area more.

With card stock, using a light clone to reduce shadows can create a messy effect.   Posted: 09/20/2020 19:49:06


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