Adventures With Light Painting

Posted: 9th August 2016 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography, The Toad's Musings
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Well, as with most great things in life, adventures always start with a curious drive to see or learn something new.  We are no different, of course, and as opportunities and new techniques come to light we tend to chase them.  In today’s post we are going to discuss a new light painting technique we have begun to include in our repertoire, adding a new method to our bag full of tricks here at Toad Hollow that can be applied to many different kinds of subjects.

2014 Ford Escape - Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

2014 Ford Escape – Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Here we have the “Toads Truck”, a handy all-purpose SUV we bought a couple of years ago to use as we explore the island from top to bottom looking for great things to photograph and share with everyone. Today this vehicle has over 90,000 km’s on it, a testament to how much time we spend on the highways here on the island.  Yes, that is a lot of miles in a short period of time.

During a recent visit with a new affiliate we are working with (more on that bit of exciting news later), we discovered that we needed to look into light painting techniques to achieve the look and feel of the images required for this specific job.  Nothing is more exciting than learning something new to us, so we dove in, headfirst.

Before we jump into the details on what we’re looking at and how we created it, let’s take a quick moment to take a look at the gear we use here at Toad Hollow Photography.  We are constantly investing in new equipment and technology, and we’re very happy with what we can do with what we’ve got right now.  Here is the list of Canon gear that accompanies us in our camera bag…

We also use the Phottix Aion Wireless Timer and Shutter Release and have a selection of Lastolite Ezyboxes that we use to create terrific light diffusion that adds a great deal to the finished product.  The final tool is Adobe Photoshop where all the magic comes together and the results of all our work are seen on the big screen.

We started with a base image captured at -1/3 exposure compensation to create a backdrop that added mood, but didn’t distract from the prime subject; the white SUV.  From here nothing can change or move in the scene for this effect to really work.  Our next steps found us moving around the truck with one of our trusty Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT controlling it remotely with the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter on the body of the camera.  We took roughly 20 frames as we moved around the truck, then blending them together in Photoshop using layer masks to bring in the regions we wanted.  The results are subtle, yet the SUV seems to gently pop out of the scene.  We could also have dropped the ambient light further for our base frame, creating a stronger effect as we brought in the lighted areas during the blending process in Photoshop.  For this particular shot we elected to try and create something subtle that looked as if it was naturally lit, yet still had the desired effect.

Old Trike - Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Old Trike – Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

In this shot, we created a base HDR frame that we then used as a foundation to mask and blend in regions that we used the light painting technique on.  In this case, that is predominantly the red lantern that sits on the patio in front of the old tricycle.  We love the flexibility these techniques bring to our workflow, allowing us to create images that appear to have many more lights applied than actually were on site during the shoot.

We hope we’ve inspired you to get out there and try new techniques in your own photography.  With a little bit of planning, and a good artistic vision, you too can create complex images with just a basic set of gear.

No matter if you are interested in just looking at pictures, or whether you are wondering about how shots like this are created, we really appreciate you taking the time to pop by and see us here in our little corner of the internet.  Please feel free to share any comments or ask any questions you may have, we love to hear from all our visitors.


  1. avatar Lisa Gordon says:

    The result is wonderful!
    Thank you for sharing your technique here.