Light Painting in the Mist

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It has been a while since I've had the itch to go out with the camera.  I've been working a lot lately, and there has been a lot going on to keep my attention away from creativity.  That's not to say that I haven't had some ideas about future pictures, I just haven't had the drive to go out and capture them this month.  One thing that I do know about me is...once I get an idea, I will get stuck on it until I try it.  That means that I won't be able to move on to any other ideas.  That was the case for most of the last two weeks.  You see, there is an old REO truck going out to Walnut Cove that I have passed by for years and years now.  I've thought about photographing it, but it just never had the look I was going for.  Recently though, I have been opened to automotive subjects that are not quite as rusty as I once sought to place in front of my lens.

Not only did this truck have some appearance issues that kept me from really looking close, there were two rather large power pole structures behind the truck which brought with them power lines which I can't stand in my pictures.  It was situated in a location that looked staged...quite simply because it was.  This was yard art, not some abandoned truck which is my normal go to for photos.

All these negatives aside, I have been looking more closely at this truck for a while now and have been finding more and more to like about it.  For the last couple of weeks, I have been pondering what kind of lighting I could use to do this truck justice, and to minimize the large structures behind it.  I thought about photographing it at sunset with a colorful sky behind it; but that would take all of the detail out of the truck.  I thought about trying it at sunrise with some color in the clouds behind it.  That was a possibility, but the focus would be more on the sky, and the power lines.  I then thought about doing some light painting with a very subdued sky behind it.  That had some possibility, but I wasn't sure if I wanted a clear sky, one with some clouds, or a totally overcast sky.  I could visualize the results of any of those options, but when it comes to light painting and log exposures, there is a large element of chance as to what you will get as a final picture.

I had woken up early several different mornings, but rolled over rather quickly due to a lack of interest in creating.  I had asked Toni to wake me up this morning since she was going to work, and I was going in for a community function later on in the morning.  I knew that I had enough time to go out to the truck and photograph it.  The weather was rainy with pretty much total overcast conditions.  That meant that I would not be able to rely on the sun at all for any lighting.  It was just going to be a matter of how light the sky got, which dictated my shutter speed, and the amount of time that I would have to paint my subject with a flashlight.  I was expecting to make my best exposures during what is called the "blue hour" which is about an hour before sunrise.  I would have enough light in the sky to give a little interest if there was any definition in the clouds.  There would also be enough backlight from the clouds to flesh out the metal structures in the background, but not make them a focal point.  This could work...but I didn't want to get up.

Well, this was the picture that I have been wanting for a couple of weeks now, and if I didn't get it today, then I would try tomorrow or the day after.  But, that would keep me from going and trying other things, and that was not a good option.  I needed to get this picture out of my system, and today was going to be the day.  I got up, and got ready for work, and was out the door at around 5:15.  About 20 minutes later I was pulling into the driveway, pleased to see that there were no street lights to complicate issues.  There was a slight mist in the air, but nothing that would prevent me from shooting the picture.

REO Yard Wagon
I looked at the scene, and found everything pretty much as I was expecting.  I knew that I would be using the power poles in the composition to give a sense of utility and power.  I found a nice bush to use on the right side as a framing element to balance with a softer, natural element to the man made majority of the frame.  The truck was given a position of power in the frame, slightly elevated from my camera location.  I found the right balance, and set the camera up right at the edge of the driveway.  I was using my 24-70mm lens, set at 45mm.  There were no filters at all used.

My first exposures were set for about three minutes which gave me plenty of time to paint the truck with the flashlight.  The sky was still a bit too dark to render properly though.  As the time ticked on, and 6am neared, the sky got brighter, but didn't have much detail to it.  This was where the power lines actually helped out.  I went through the same routine with each exposure, and finally reached an exposure point where I could move out of the Bulb mode and back into manual mode.  The picture that you see here was shot at ISO 100, f/8, 30 seconds.  I painted the truck for the entire 30 seconds, including the bush to the right.  The sky rendered just about right according to the histogram of the camera.  This was probably going to be "the one".  Just in case though, I shot one more at the same settings and did the same lighting.  The results were close, but the shadows looked strange, and I liked the other one better.

At this point, I was looking at the sky to see if there was going to be the possibility of any new interest as the sun came up.  It wasn't looking like it, and I wasn't going to get enough sun to hit the truck to make it pop.  My flashlight was starting to get dim as well.  I chose to pack it up and head back to the house to see what I had gotten before time to go to work.

I downloaded a total of nine images from the morning, and found that there were 5 that I really liked.  When I started looking at the details, there was one that shined through as having all of the elements that I was looking for.  That was the next to last exposure that I had made.  It checked all of the boxes, and once I finished polishing it in Lightroom, I actually had the image that I had been formulating in my mind.

The focus was on the truck which was a big old chunk of red inside the frame.  Red is a powerful color to include, and one must be careful with how it is used.  This truck needed some very cool tones to balance it out.  That was where the sky came in.  It was largely blue with a purple undertone.  It provided the exact amount of visual balance that the cab of the truck needed.  The lit bush also balanced out the two power poles behind which were left in the shadows.  Everything just really worked out well here.  Now, I'm ready to go and photograph something different, and that helps to spark my creativity.


  1. Digging this one... One of my favorites from this room. Pretty cool!!! (Even the powerful red)

    1. That's really saying something if you are liking the red.