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12 Nov 2013

In this project, I played with more examples of light painting by creating different spinning light spirals at home by making use of a torch light. There are a few ways that spinning light spirals can be created at home.

Spinning Light Spirals from a Suspended Torch Light on Ceiling

Torch Light + String

Besides from the torch light, a string with considerable length will be required. One end of the string will be used to secure to the torch light (note: I also use masking tape to 'double' secure it), while the other end will be secured to the ceiling or ceiling light. 

The string needs to be tightly secured on both ends, otherwise the entire torch light may be sent flying off and hit someone or break something. On the torch's end, I had use masking tape to 'double' secure the string to it even after tying it. On the ceiling light's end, I simply wrap the string around the ceiling light and make a knot.

Note: How far the torch light is suspended from the ceiling will determine how big or small the spinning trail is, as well as whether the camera lens is wide enough to capture the spinning trail.

Camera, Tripods and Settings

Have the camera mounted on a low tripod and pointing directly upwards towards the suspended torch light. It would be better if an wide angle lens is used, considering the distance away from the subject and the width of the circular spinning path that the torch light would make.

Pre-focus the camera on the suspended torch light in the air using automatic-focus before switching back to manual focus. 

Depending on the strength of the light from the torch, the aperture and shutter shutter speed would need to be adjusted accordingly. Start with an aperture of F/8 and stop-down the aperture if the spinning trails are overly-exposed. An exposure time of 20 seconds is good as a start - the exposure time will also depend on how long the torch light can be sent spinning in a smooth circular motion.

Spin and Take the Shot

Turn on the light of the suspended torch light and send it swinging in a circular motion. Remember to switch off all other lights in the room before taking the shot (note: best to be done in a dark room without other ambient lighting).

Try other modifications like:
  • Different color gels over the suspend torch light.
  • Instead of circular motion path, try sending the suspended torch swinging in erratic patterns.
  • Try attaching additional colors of light sources to the suspended torch (note: need to make sure that the string can take the weight of additional light sources and they are all properly secured.)

Spinning Light Spirals with Hand (Light Orbs)

Torch Light + String

Same as the 1st example, the torch light needs to be tightly secured to the string on one end. The other end needs to be hand-held as we will be spinning the suspended torch light.

Note: The spinning force can be quite great even for a small torch light. It is best to wear a glove to prevent the string from cutting your hand or causing blisters. I had blister from it for not wearing a glove :)

Camera, Tripod and Settings

The camera and tripod should be a distance away, enough to capture the entire spinning motion. If the house is not big enough, take it outdoor.

The camera settings is pretty much the something that have to be experimented with. For this particular setup, it might be good to set exposure time of 1minute so that sufficient light trails can be captured to give a nice looking orb.

Technique in Spinning

To create a nice looking light orb, it is best to spin and rotate about the same axis on the ground - do so by moving your body in a circle around the axis of the spin. Alternatively, you can try spinning the torch light with the body as the axis to create a different looking pattern i.e. rotate your body on the same spot while spinning the torch light.

For best effect, it is best to do it in a dark open space where there is no nearby objects where the light would fall on. Make sure that you are dressed in dark colors (i.e. best to be in black) from head to toe so that your image will not be captured in the frame causes by light falling on your clothes.

Note: The above light orb is shot in my room, which is a little bit cramp. Not a nice looking orb as it was my first time doing it :)

Spinning Light Spirals with USB Fan (Light Orbs)

I have also tried creating the light orb using an small USB fan (see picture below). Basically, I secured a mini Maglite (torch light) to one of the soft foam blades of the USB fan. When the fan is turned on, I simply rotate the entire USB fan in circle while the blades are rotating.

Although the spinning speed of the USB fan is relatively slow due to the weight of the torch light that is secured on the blade, the fan will still vibrate quite violently due to the unbalance weight on the blades. So make sure that the USB fan is held on tightly while rotating it.

Important: It is quite dangerous, and never try this on an electrical fan as the moving speed of a blades is so fast that it might throw the entire torch light flying, which could be fatal if it hits you.

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