This evening at the 2013 Willowood Technology Summit, I used my iPhone to capture some remarkable images of “light painting.”
The last times I experimented with light painting and LED pens was in April and May of 2010. This time, however, instead of a “regular” digital camera I used my iPhone5 and the “Slow Shutter” app ($2). Thanks to an evening loan from Patsy Lanclos, I also used an iStabilizer iPhone tripod, since I’d left my own Glif tripod mount back in another building on the ranch.
I posted most the images I captured this evening to a new Flickr set. Initially I tried using the “light trail” setting for a 15 second exposure, with a 3 second timer delay, but I found it worked better to use the manual “Bulb” setting (which leaves the camera shutter open as long as you want it to be) and turning off the timer.
The coolest effects we photographed tonight were not created with LED light pens, they were made with sparklers and “DIY spinning fireballs.” These were created with a large metal kitchen whisk, steel wool spread out inside the whisk and lit on fire, and a cheap dog leash which could spin the whisk. To be safe, our fire-masters of the evening plied their trade in the center of a large, asphalt parking lot to minimize the fire danger.
I found rather than leave the shutter open for an entire spinning steel wool fire display, it was more impressive to just leave it open for five to ten seconds. A twenty second exposure looked like this (kind of a mess):
A shorter, five to ten second exposure, however, turned out much better:
I think I was the only one of our approximately 15 photographers tonight shooting with an iPhone. Everyone else was shooting with much bulkier (and expensive) digital SLRs. A digital SLR can work wonderfully for light painting at night, but it’s not required! Instead, all you need is an iPhone, the $2 Slow Shutter app, and an iPhone tripod or tripod mount with a standard tripod. I think the next Fourth of July, our family will try some sparkler and steel-wool / metal whisk / dog leash pyrotechnics to capture some more light painting! This was a lot of fun and pretty easy to do.
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