Hi everyone! We just got back from Los Osos, CA where I taught a double-feature workshop on HDR and Lightpainting at the Light Photographic Workshops. This event was very “Ben” as these are my absolute favorite types of photography. I love HDR (high dynamic range) because it allows you to get great results in almost any kind of lighting conditions, and I love lightpainting because the creative possibilities are just endless.

We had a small group, which allowed for a lot of one-on-one, hands-on instruction. It also allowed us to lightpaint in some smaller spaces, a winery for example. Since the workshop was a combination of shooting and Photoshop processing, we would usually start off our day in the classroom, going over merging/editing techniques, and reviewing our images from the previous night’s shoot. During the afternoon shoots, we focused on HDR photography and after dark we would move on to lightpainting.

Here I am with a group of students shooting for HDR at the Mission in San Luis Obispo.

We got to experiment a lot when it came to the lightpainting shoots. On one night, we got access to the inside of a winery and barrel room where we did both “standard” lightpaints with flashlights and unique ones where we experimented a bit with sparklers (swinging them around on the end of a rope).

This orb was created with sparklers and was shot inside a Paso Robles winery/barrel room.

The winery we were shooting was in Paso Robles, and there were also some interesting buildings nearby that we were given access to. On what was probably the clearest night of the week, we shot those old buildings, focusing on getting multi-shot composites as a final result. In the two images below, you can see the results of these lightpaintings. This shoot really gave the students a good idea as to how to think about shooting for a lightpaint composite, and later, how to best merge all the images they shot. Everyone was totally stoked with their results!

A lightpainted composite of a fun little shack in Paso Robles.

This was a fun shot. I lightpainted this old structure while the students took photos. During one of the frames, Karen yelled at me to hold still, and it resulted in my creepy silhouette in the window!

The most fun shoot of the week was the one we did on the beach behind Morro Rock (at Morro Bay). To give you an idea of the fun level, we had to get a permit from the local fire department! We waited until the sun went down, and then we all set up our tripods on the beach. I had on some wading boots, so I walked out into the water, lit some steel wool on fire and then swung it around, creating an amazing scattering of sparks and molten metal chunks flying out in all directions. PLEASE NOTE: This is not the kind of thing you should try if you’re new to this. We take all kinds of precautions, including having a fire extinguisher on hand. And I was the only one handling the burning steel wool. We like sending students home with great images, not burn scars! Below, you can see some of the awesome images we came out with from that night on the beach.

The shots above and below are from the steel wool shoot on the beach. When the waves came in, we got an extra bonus of the reflections in the water. 

During the last shoot of the week, Karen set up this little group shot after everyone went out shooting for HDR in The Oaks at Los Osos.

By the end of the workshop, everyone’s brains were completely full, and I think we all have some new memories to take away. Before everyone headed back home, some of the students mentioned to me that not only did they learn a ton, but they loved the workshop so much because they had FUN. I just love hearing that. In fact, it’s always our goal for people to come out and not only improve their skills, but to have FUN doing it. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point, right!? So I was glad to hear that everyone was happy with the experience.

On Saturday, Karen and I flew back to the Pacific Northwest, where the bus was, and I had to do some last minute prep for my new seminar tour. This week, I fly out to present my Photoshop Artistry Seminar in both New York City and Washington DC.

More to come!

Click here to buy “The Fine Art of Painting with Light” e-book, or download the free starter pdf to guide you in creating your first light-painted image.