Photographer and filmmaker Will Ferguson has shared how he took his passion for long exposure light painting to the next level with the help of a drone and a small LED light.
Ferguson, based in the United Kingdom, has held an interest in long exposure photography from a young age. He first started with more traditional shots of cars driving along a motorway at night and has since progressed to technically more advanced photos.
His latest experiments involve light painting a halo into images using his drone and a safely attached small but bright LED light. It has allowed him to combine his love for light painting and drones into one. It also hasn’t gone unnoticed on social media, with his behind-the-scenes TikTok videos attracting interest and amassing over a million views.
Ferguson explains that the most difficult part of taking a photo like this is to achieve the correct amount of brightness. A balance is needed to ensure the drone LED properly lights up the subject of the photo without under-exposing the stars in the night sky. Also, the size and speed of the drone need to be taken into consideration to match the length of time the camera requires to take a correctly exposed image.
Ferguson makes a point that it is crucial to take the necessary steps to safely fly a drone at night. Although in the United Kingdom it is legal to fly a drone at night within the Civil Aviation Authority laws, he makes sure to do a pre-flight check of the location during the day. This way, he can ensure there aren’t any safety hazards, such as electrical pylon wires or tree branches, which may go unnoticed in the dark.
So far, Ferguson has picked St. Michael’s Tower which sits on top of Glastonbury Tor in the English county of Somerset, and a tall tree in a park as his subjects. He tells PetaPixel that tall tower-like structures do particularly well for this method of shooting because the LED light helps to illuminate the subject and create a magical yet eery look.
Although this was a passion project for Ferguson, the interest he received from the community on social media has not only helped him educate and inspire other creatives but he has also received interest from brands who want to collaborate in the future.
“You create your own luck,” he says, hoping to inspire others to share their work with the world.
Ferguson plans on shooting more drone halos in the future because this type of light painting photography helps him create something that the audience can only witness from a long-exposure photograph.
“I think this is why I am so drawn to the magic of light painting,” he says.
Photographs of space are usually flat, telling viewers nothing about the relative distances of stars and galaxies seen in the frame. Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio has decided to change that by creating amazing 3D conversions from his 2D photos.
“As an artist, I like to find new views of reality,” Metsavainio writes. “My models are not just guesswork — the conversion is based on real scientific data.
“For as long as I have captured images of celestial objects, I have always seen them three-dimensionally in my head. The scientific information makes my inner visions much more accurate, and the 3-D technique I have developed enables me to share those beautiful visions with others.”
Metsavainio first began planning the process of converting photos of nebulae into 3D back in 2008, and it starts with collecting scientific data about his target nebula.
Usually there is a recognizable star cluster that is responsible for ionizing the nebula. We don’t need to know its absolute location since we know its relative location. Stars ionizing the nebula have to be very close to the nebula structure itself. I usually divide up the rest of the stars by their apparent brightness, which can then be used as an indicator of their distances, brighter being closer. If true star distances are available, I use them, but most of the time my rule of thumb is sufficient. By using a scientific estimate of the distance of the Milky Way object, I can locate the correct number of stars in front of it and behind it.
Nebulae glow due to stellar radiation ionizing elements inside the gas clouds, Metsavainio explains, and the shape of each one can be estimated by looking at brightness at various parts of figure out “thickness” there.
“Many other small indicators can be found by carefully studying the image itself,” Metsavainio says. “For example, if there is a dark nebula in the image, it must be located in front of the emission one, otherwise we couldn’t see it at all.”
Using all of these data points, Metsavainio builds a skeleton model of each nebula and then uses his photos to turn each model into “a sculpture on a cosmic scale.”
Ever feel like having an actual camera controller for the latest Pokémon Snap game on the Nintendo Switch would add to the realism of the gameplay experience? YouTuber BigRig Creates has done just that.
He 3D printed his own custom controller that was inspired by the camera used in the actual game, with a bit of influence from Nintendo’s own Labo Camera as well.
Pokemon Snap is a newly-released game for the Nintendo Switch that is the successor to the wildly popular game by the same name that was relaesed in 2009 for the Nintendo 64. It was eventually re-released on the Nintendo Wii U using the Virtual Console.
BigRig Creates’s 3D printed “camera” isn’t just meant to sit on a shelf, it is actually designed to make use of the gyro controls in an attempt to replicate how the new Pokémon Snap game might have felt if it were played on the old Nintendo Wii U. In the video above, the process of designing, painting, and assembling the 3D printed camera is shared in full detail, including all of the accidents and mistakes he made along the way. This included several painting sessions, taping, painting again, retaping, fixing the paint job again, and then just 3D printing some of the design elements after scrapping the painting plans altogether.
Once finished, users are able to insert a set of Nintendo Joy-Con controllers inside the 3D Printed “camera” and with some customization using a third party programming tool, are able to utilize the finished camera system to make the camera change directions (up, down, left, right) with one controller, and control the zoom using the controller housed in the “lens.”
Granted, as BigRig Creates explains himself, the system is not exactly perfect. The controls were sluggish and felt laggy, but after some practice runs, he was able to utilize the system to make it through a few rounds of the game “as intended.”
While the finished project that is shown above may not be a complete success, the idea and follow-through is still impressive. As suggested in the video, it would be great for someone to pick up where this project was left off and make improvements to it either through fine-tuning the physical design, including linking the actual controls to the buttons on the camera, or even just simply improving the controls through the gyro controls. It will be especially interesting to see if Nintendo ever ends up releasing a more “refined” version of the Pokémon camera, especially if gaming can help introduce more people to the world of photography.
Landscape photography is a challenging genre that takes the confluence of a lot of techniques, creative ideas, and more to bring an image to fruition, but it is quite rewarding when you see the finished photo. This awesome video tutorial will show you how a professional landscape photographer shoots an image, from choosing the right focal length all the way through the edit.
Coming to you from Landscape Photography iQ with Tom Mackie, this great video tutorial will show you how he shoots a landscape photo from start to finish. One thing that I have always loved about landscape photography is how many distinct images you can get from a single scene, depending on the time of day, the weather, the season, and more. If you are newer to the genre, do not be afraid to experiment with different focal lengths. We almost all tend to default to using wide angle lenses for landscape work, and while they can certainly produce fantastic results, a telephoto can be an excellent way to explore your creativity. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Mackie.
A photographer has built his own DIY ultra-large format digital camera from scratch. The rig uses a 600mm f/9 lens and has a projection area of one meter, making for some crazy images.
Tim Hamilton, a photographer and filmmaker from New Zealand, was inspired to build this monster rig after he saw a similar build online by Alexey Shportun. We recently interviewed Shportun about this setup in the article How To Get the Large Format Film Effect With Any Digital Camera. Shportun’s rig is essentially a DIY large format camera, but the film plane has been replaced with a white matte screen. This allows the lens to project the image onto the screen, which is then photographed by a digital camera looking through a hole in the front. Think of a camera obscura that’s been altered to take digital shots.
I interviewed Hamilton about his ridiculously huge camera and he shared his experiences making it with co-creator, Lexy. He explained they were eager to create an even bigger and crazier large format digital camera, especially as they were looking for new creative techniques for an upcoming project. Hamilton had recently come across an old enlargement lens. It was a 600mm f/9 Rodenstock lens and was originally used for making newspaper enlargements. Rather than let it sit and collect dust, Hamilton decided it was perfect for a large camera build.
They began this bizarre experiment and gathered all materials necessary. Looking rather crude, the rig was put together using various pieces of wood and scrap metal with lots of glue. They found all of the materials nearby, so the cost wasn’t really a problem with the setup.
The design is relatively similar to Shportun’s large format camera. Hamilton did use a white matte screen as the projection area, the whitest one he could find, however, this area spans an impressive one meter in width by 80 cm in height. With an area that large, the 600mm lens becomes equivalent to a 35mm lens. This gives you the crazy compression effect that a 600mm lens would give you, but with the viewing angle of a 35mm lens. It is so large, in fact, that when a subject is in a close-up shot, the projected image is actually bigger than the subject themselves. The results look very otherworldly and certainly different from what I’ve seen before.
Hamilton said the focus from the back of the lens to the white screen was one meter. All of this was encased in a box that was painted jet black, with the only holes being for the lens and digital camera.
Just like a traditional large format film camera, the setup is basically a big box with bellows and a lens. The bellows, which are towards the front of the camera and are used to focus, enabled Hamilton to focus incredibly closely. The close focus is so impressive that you are actually limited because the camera is so large it gets in the way of the light, making your subject too dark.
The digital camera in question was the Canon 1D X, which Hamilton already had laying around. He attached this to the front using a simple ball-head mount, with the lens peeking through a hole into the setup.
After a lot of work and customization, they took the newly built monster camera out for a test drive. The final images certainly had a unique look to them. The strong compression of the 600mm lens is apparent, and it gives the images an interesting feel that’s almost otherworldly. They do, however, seem to be lacking in quality, especially when you compare them to high-resolution scans of 8×10 film photography, which can be over 700 megapixels in size. While the lens appears to be sharp in areas, the overall sharpness seems to be weakened by something in the pipeline.
Sharpness is not everything, though. The overall feel that this setup produces is something different and the textures are reminiscent of film photography. It’s clear a great deal of the visible grain you see is actually texture from the white matte screen, not the image itself. An added benefit of using a matte screen is the highlight bloom that is possible, which can be seen in the image below in the model’s hair.
The biggest challenge was simply getting enough light in order to see an image. Hamilton explained that due to the time of year in New Zealand, the sun only shines for a mere few hours. This was not exactly ideal, as the camera itself needs a huge amount of light. As mentioned, the lens’ widest aperture is f/9. Combine that with the added light-loss of the projection inside this giant black box against a white screen, and some serious light power is needed.
Furthermore, Hamilton did not want to disturb traffic during the day, blocking the roads by wheeling this giant monstrosity around. Instead, he and Lexy went out during the night when no one else was around. They managed to get some results from using what seems to be street lamps; however, they tried again using stronger lighting and got some nice images. Of course, the sheer size of this thing was a frequent challenge for Hamilton. He explained that the rig was so heavy that any normal tripod he put it on broke. He said the legs would bend under the enormous weight. Therefore, after some hair pulling, he built his own tripod completely from scratch. This was then placed on heavy-duty wheels so he could move it all around.
Finally, the last challenge was to keep everything framed and in focus. As he was working with two lenses pointing in opposite directions, it was important for him to adjust as he went. Similar to Shportun, Hamilton needed to focus the large lens onto the subject, to then focus the digital camera onto the white screen.
This was not Hamilton’s first experiment with DIY and combining digital with large format. When he was a teenager, he experimented with building a large format camera that used a flatbed scanner as the film plane. This essentially gave him a large digital sensor attached to a box with a lens. However, the image took a long time to take, as it would have to slowly scan from one side of the image to the other.
Hamilton hopes to take this camera out more during a brighter time of the year in New Zealand. I believe there is a lot of potential with this design; it just needs that extra light to reach its full potential.
When Germany was hit by a second wave of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions in late 2020, photographer and artist Jörg Gläscher decided to do a photo project in a forest that reflected what the world was going through.
The Leipzig, Germany-based Gläscher spent many days in the quiet location near Hamburg gathering wood and assembling them into giant waves sweeping across the forest floor.
“I was working (with the idea of) the pure power of nature, the all-destroying force, which brings one of the richest countries in the world to a completely still stand,” the photographer tells Colossal. “A wave is a periodic oscillation or a unique disturbance the state of a system.”
Between November 2020 through March 2021, Gläscher created 9 different waves.
“I only use what we call deadwood — I didn’t cut a single tree,” the photographer tells PetaPixel. “The largest, No. 8, is nearly 4 meters [13.1ft] high and 9 meters [29.5ft] wide. After I took the picture I destroyed it to build a new one from the material.”
These deadwood wave photos are a part of a bigger body of artwork Gläscher has been working on since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s titled C19,1-20, the diary complex, and “it contains 20 different pieces of work from photography to sculpture which I publish in self-promoted digital printed magazines, in small numbers,” he says.
Here’s the text Gläscher included alongside the wave photos in his magazine:
Observations are manifold, individual, not directly transferable, and can be experienced in many different ways. A perceived object can generate impact in numerous ways. Is it standing still? Has it moved? Nothing is ever as it seems.
Are appearances therefore deceptive? No, they are not necessarily deceptive, but they join me on a journey, wash over me, swirl through me, make me anxious, retreat, and then rush towards me all over again. “But that can‘t be,” says the left, “but I see and feel it,” says the right half of my brain.
I can go through them, stop them, touch them, but everything comes to a standstill and goes no further. I have to let it go. Standing up, the second wave rolls over me.
It is unique, it was unique. I lift my head, take it by the hand and recognize the vibration and the recurring sensation, and with it the fear disappears. Should it come, I will be ready.
Famed bullet-time expert Eric Paré decided to challenge himself by building an experimental bullet-time rig using the Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2, a tiny 8-megapixel camera. While he encountered a few problems with the rig, he eventually got the 15 cameras working together without using custom electronic components.
In the 5-minute video above, Paré explains how he turned the set of tiny cameras into a functional bullet-time array. He usually uses a large number of DSLRs to create some incredible bullet-time effects (which you can see in action on his YouTube Channel), and while he notes that the Raspberry Pi experiment here is unlikely to replace that rig, it was a fun challenge for him to tackle.
In short, he was curious how far he could push the small cameras and what kind of image quality he could expect. “My main interest here is the size of them as they can be put super close to each other, giving me my best density ever on a multi-camera structure,” he said.
Initially, he struggled to get a good result because the cameras are mounted on thermal paste and cannot be placed with the precision required for a smooth bullet-time effect. That lack of precision resulted in a very shakey result. “The problem is that these are very wide lenses, and with the distortion, I really need to have all of the cameras to look at the same center spot,” Paré said.
Undeterred, Paré figured out a solution. Instead of mounting the camera on the thermal paste, Pare instead got rid of the paste entirely and attached the camera to the small boars directly. While not perfect, it resulted in a dramatic improvement.
“For all of my tests using continuous light, I’m using 15 PiCam on 15 Raspberry Pi 3b+ with no custom electronic components. Each Pi is sending its data through ethernet cables to the switches to the laptop,” Paré explained. “My trigger is a simple Bluetooth PowerPoint presenter. But for my shots using an external strobe, we had to design a little PCB to send the signal to my speed light. The board is on the last Pi and linked to the flash via an audio cable and a hot shoe adapter.” If you were thinking of mimicking his setup, Pare mentions that any kind of flash can work in this application.
While satisfied with the result, Paré is not done tinkering with Raspberry Pi cameras. His success with the Module V2 led him to start experimenting with the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, which allows for interchangeable lenses. Given what he was able to accomplish with the V2, he should soon be able to show his results with the more powerful camera.
You can follow Pare on his YouTube channel where he says his experiments with the High Quality Camera will be posted in the coming weeks, and also his Instagram where he shares some of his incredible art.
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