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Painting with light: Photographers share unique and creative process

Ryan Wang

It's one thing to just snap a photo, but a while additional layer of creativity can emerge when you leave the shutter open a while.

Several local photographers have been taking part in what's called "light painting" over the past few months. The basic idea is that you use colored lights or other bright objects -- sometimes even flaming wool -- to make for some really amazing scenes with long exposure.

Ken Vensel with KCVensel Photography has dabbled in both.

"I have been playing with different lights off and on for years now, it adds to being creative when out shooting at night," he said. "I really enjoy getting out at night, especially on full moons in the mountains, and since it's dark what better way to get creative than some light painting."

He started doing a common practice of putting wire wool inside some sort of small container, lighting it on fire, then spinning it rapidly as the camera records the ensuing sparks. More on that in a moment.

But simpler photos could be had just using color lights.

"I also enjoy simple methods such as capturing my friend's headlamps as light trails in the dark," he said. "I purchased some battery LED's for experimenting by spinning, though not as dramatic as Wire Wool, it certainly can create some interesting effects."

For one particularly colorful photo, he and a friend brought light tubes and covered them in colored cellophane before walking across a bridge at Gold Creek Pond.

"He was doing circles behind him for drama but I wanted to get some movement so I asked if I could try. I walked or ran while waving the wands back and forth and was pleased with the results," Vensel said.

As for the flaming wool, Brendan Ramsey explains this process to make those intricate streaks of light. Just be sure to follow the safety procedures he mentions in the video.

And here's another more in depth video on steel wool photography via "The School of Photography" on YouTube:


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