This week in my pursuit of an Art Ed degree…
Starting with a curiosity of how light became fluid enough to paint with, I set up an exploration of the medium in my usual fashion: by playing with it. In regard to my own learning style, this workshop demonstrated at least two of Knowles’ assumptions about adult learners being self-directed and drawing on personal experiences (Knowles, 1980), as well as demonstrating a limitation my current creative process. I’ve disassociated technology from art and exploration and allowed myself to create by exploration, instead of structured or planned growth. I’m learning there may be another way.
During our workshop: with white walls, low natural light; my camera settings were set-up with the aid of our T.A., Coleen. While my mind was on understanding the fluidity of light, I was very aware of my anxiety regarding the camera settings. We took over 40 spontaneous shots. The sharpest being when the light source was strong and pointed at the camera. It appeared that faster and more fluid movements gave us nice smooth lines. I couldn’t get my mind around how to actually draw with the light. This is a reflection on my need to understand technical things before finding any way to use them creatively. Because of time constraints, I let that go to have fun and see what happened.
At home, I set out to could capture light from a stationary source as it spread through space over time. I was having difficulty getting the shutter button to hold and I couldn’t get the camera to focus properly on the light source during the set-ups, as I had done in the classroom. I returned to random experimentation. Misunderstanding ISO, Aperture, & Shutter Speed during this experiment impacted my creative exploration and motivation to explore further. I kept the setting at 100 for most of the shots, like we did in class. When I moved it to 200, the images seemed to get brighter and crisper. However, since I was changing Sutter speeds and aperture randomly, I wasn’t sure what changes I was looking for in image quality, and not fully able to start a creative exploration based on knowledge of the medium.
For a learner like myself, setting up a more scientific approach might be better: documenting all the different combinations of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture size while retaining the subject and lighting conditions as the constants, and then comparing them side by side would allow me to see the impact of the different setting combinations. Again, this may be a personal learning limitation.
In a classroom of elementary or high school students, an exploration lesson can be done in two or three sessions. The goal can be to teach technical skill with a new medium. Rodrigues, A.I., (2017) suggests photography can be an excellent communication building tool and well as a medium that leads to greater reflection and self-esteem. This is a cumulative process and I believe should be started at an earlier age to aid in the demands for critical thinking that comes throughout the academic career.
Lesson Plan Summary
In the first session (eg. ISO 100, f16, 10”): I believe the cameras should be set to optimal settings by the teacher and the students can be given a selection of light sources and instructed to play with a set of instructions. eg: point the light at the camera while moving it around, point the light away from the camera while moving it around, point the light at the camera with your hand or body between the camera and light source, etc. The students start the new learning experience with fun. The whole class can then do a compare & contrast review, while the teacher briefly explains the impact of the settings on the light sources chosen from the student’s creations.
In the second session: Instruct the students to follow a spreadsheet of settings while staying with the same light source. For the purpose of time management, a limited combination of settings will need to be explored, so the teacher will need to choose them based on their knowledge of the medium with the goal being to demonstrate the most dramatic changes possible. The students can again be instructed to either only point the light source at the camera, or, if time permits, repeat session one with this new set of combinations. The choice of what to draw remains with the students, while discovering the possibilities of the medium.
In the third session: Start with having the students choose what they would like to achieve. They in groups or as a class, discuss what settings could be used to achieve their desired image. Let the students then make their light paintings, possibly in less than ten trials, for the sake of time management, and pick their favourite result. Share the results with the class (or group) while showing the metadata and following up with a reflection paper or reflection discussion in groups about the motivation behind this image.
Other uses for teaching about light painting are as lessons on collaboration and teamwork. The concepts of light are all over the sciences. Light can be used to talk about bioluminescence in fauna to more complex aspects of math and physics.
The focus on ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are highly technical aspects of this medium. While contributing aesthetically to images, they didn’t inspire my artistic choices, but rather deterred some by the technical skill needed in achieving the choices. I believe in regard to the young learner classroom, the benefits of technical photography are lesser than the potential of exploring what photography can capture and offer as a reflective tool. The meaning of the images is defined by the artist-photographer first. Setting the student up to capture the beauty they see, can inspire them to learn more about the techniques of how to capture it.
My Photo Choices
My Top 5:
1 – The camera is the source: I danced a strong flashlight around the camera and often pointed it at my electric fireplace to try and capture the reflection off of it. The result is that the light seems to have shown the camera like some mechanical creature in a strange landscape.
2 – Sabine in the sky with diamonds: Using sparklers to capture very bright light as it moved. At first I hadn’t seen her face inside the light. The effect reminded me of taking a macro shot in my garden. It would be interesting to try and change the depth of field to focus on her, not the light.
3 – Angels In The Maelstrom: We had a red light and a white one, both closed inside my hand. When pointed right at the camera Lenz for a pause, it must have registered as pink, or so it appeared in editing. It reminded me of those beautiful images of space, either real or artist renderings. Combined with my beliefs, and desire to believe in angels, and that is what I saw. This one is a good example of my creative process, in that I love shooting many images and then allowing the creative storytelling to take over to guide how I’ll edit them.
4 – The Coming Ghosts: Aiming for an answer to my question of how light might pool outward in time from the source, I only moved the white flashlight in a few jerky movements. The light was pointed alternatingly at the camera and wall behind me by flipping my wrist back and forth. We achieved the shadow of my hand in the left side of the frame. It reminded me of the ghost march from Poltergeist.
5 – The Homemade Nebula: Here we pooled two light sources, red & white, and circled them with a green. The effect was that it looked like a scene from Star Trek. I really don’t understand how the f22 factor turned gave us so much blur. I don’t recall the speed we moved, but my guess is fast.
My Photo Choices
My Top 10 trials:
1 – Dancing Flames: Capturing an electric fireplace. I wanted to see if the light would expand outward and/or upward over time. I choose a 30 second exposure. This limited my definition and revealed that the light only moves as far as the digital fireplace screen allows.
2 – Mardi Gras Masks: My daughter has dollar store finger lasers and was waiving them around while pointing them at the camera. The tripod moved during the shot and I believe this added to the blur. The effect was unintended, but good. It reminds me of film footage of Mardi Gras or a ticker-tape parade, where the air is so full of visual sound, our eyes cannot focus.
3 – Northern Lights: My daughter waived several glow sticks, attached to strings at slightly different lengths in front of the camera. I was hoping for a crisper line of light and only got blurs. I believe the light source may have been too weak.
4 – IMG_1544: We tested a 15 second exposure with f11 & ISO 100. The movements were random. This was a pure test and I loved the colours that came out. It was a red light and the camera seems to have separated out some white/yellow from the red light. The room wasn’t totally dark, so the dark background was a surprise as well.
5 – IMG_1545: Repeating the same movements of the IMG_1544, but reducing the aperture to f22, sees to have resulted in a tighter light-line.
6 – IMG_1571: Again using ISO 100 & f22, but dropping the shutter speed to 10”, we got a similar result to IMG_1545. Not sure how the colour of the light may affect the results, if at all.
7 – Neon Fireworks: When I squint my eyes while looking at neon lights, this is the halo I get. My imagination also saw people dancing with glow-sticks and sparklers. This one is filled with music for me.
8 – Of origin, Intensity, and Destination: In case you can’t tell, we started this in the middle of the frame and slowly increased the movement of the light source as it spread outward to the edges of the frame. It shows the trajectory of the light.
9 – IMG_1638: At home, I moved a sparkler in front of the camera, uncertain of the speed I should go or how that would play out. This was an unplanned exploration. The image gave me a baseline idea for what to instruct my daughter to do in “Sabine in the sky with diamonds”. So far, in the dark of my basement, f16 gave me the most aesthetically pleasing colour and light intensity results.
10 – IMG_1665: At ISO 200, the exposure doubled and it really showed in this image. Additional impact on the exposure may be the strength of the flashlight and that I brought it very close to the camera on several passes in front of it. A much different result to the fine line I got in “The camera is the source”, where I pointed the light away from the camera and at a reflective surface in front of it.
Photography Life (2019), Introduction to ISO in Photography
Photography Life (2019), Introduction to Aperture
Photography Life (2019), Introduction to Shutter Speed
The Smart teacher Resource: Light Painting (lesson plan) (2015)
Digital Photography School: Light Painting Part 1… (2019)
Popova, M.: Brain Pickings
Rodrigues, A.I., (2017), The use of photography as an educational tool: Reflective Photography Technique as an Example
Knowles, M. (1980). The Modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.