Create Abstract Lighting Patterns with LEDs

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Today, I will let you guys know a little fun secret of mine and it involves long exposure and LEDs. This is not your typical light painting that is saturated on the internet because this technique is meant to be abstract.

Step 1 Gather the gear. You can get LED strips online, and they’re inexpensive. (A custom-sizeable, 5-meter-long strip with a wireless remote controller is under $12.) Some strips have only white LEDs; you gel them to produce color. More sophisticated strips let you program color settings and have adhesive backings for attachment to the wooden or plastic rods you’ll use create the propeller. Since LEDs produce hard pinpoints of light, shroud them in translucent plastic for a diffused look. You need two tripods: one for the propeller and one for the camera. Any DSLR with a Bulb setting and a mid-range zoom will work.

Step 2 Find your location and set up. You will need a location that’s completely free of extraneous light after dark. For your circles to be concentric, set things up so the center of the lighting rig and the optical center of the lens are at the same height. Do this by elevating each with the help of a reference rod that’s marked at the desired height. Dress, glove, and hood yourself in black.

Step 3 Make test shots. To determine spin speed and aperture, take multiple test shots with the camera’s shutter open on its Bulb setting. For easily reproducible tests, spin your lighting rig at a slow, consistent speed.

Step 4 Make your exposures. This shot, made at 214 sec and f/18 at ISO 100, required multiple exposures.

Final Step Clean up in post. With exposures measured in minutes, these images need noise reduction.

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