In Pictures: 25 great examples of painting with light photos

By Andy Wells

Using long-exposure settings to photograph moving lights can create some really dramatic effects. Handheld light-trail shots are usually created using battery-powered torches. Switch to steel wool and you’ll get much more dazzling effects. Set the wool on fire, spin it, and use a slow shutter speed to capture the circle and sparks. The steel wool burns like a sparkler, but with more intensity and with more powerful spark projectiles, so you need to dress appropriately, and do it alone in wet or damp conditions.

Photo by Gary Guest

Photo tips for long-exposure light shows:

  • Dress in a coat, hat, gloves, scarf and goggles
  • Attach a ball of Grade 0 steel wool to the end of a fire-proof cable, such as a steel dog chain
  • Set up your camera on a tripod, manually focus on the point where you’ll stand, and set a long exposure of 10-30 seconds. Use the camera’s self-timer so that you have time to get in position and light the steel wool
  • Set the wool on the ground and light it, then spin it around at arm’s length throughout the exposure. To create a ball of light, rather than a circle, slowly turn around as you spin the cable.

Below are some other fantastic examples of light-trail drawings using the techniques described above, and various others.

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