Simple DIY Light Painting Brush

I've never really done much light painting before, always liked the idea of it but somehow have just never got round to it, or found the right subject for it.  Also I'm not hugely keen on wandering about in the dark, tripping over all the crap I have left lying around on the studio floor (note to self: tidy up floor!).

Anyway a couple of weekends ago I was playing about with some ideas for a new portfolio shot involving a wall clock.  Now this clock happens to look a bit like a pocket watch and a pocket watch normally has a chain (see where I'm going with this yet?), so I figured, "what if instead of a chain, I use some wispy light trails".


So after a bit of trial and error, this is the shot I ended up with. This post though isn't really about the finished shot, It's about the tool (and I use that word loosely) that I used to create the light streaks.

Of course these days you can easily buy ready made light brushes, sticks and a plethora of other modifiers aimed at the avid light painter but seriously, where's the fun in that?!  So in true Blue Peter fashion, I knocked up a DIY light painting brush. It won't win any awards for style, in fact it's about as aesthetically pleasing as tooth decay but it did give me the effect I was looking for and it's super simple and cheap to make.  So I thought I'd quickly show you how I put it together and maybe it will help someone who is looking to do something similar.

Highly Engineered Parts

Highly Engineered Parts

So here's the list of parts:

1 x £2.99 LED Tourch
1 x Coke Bottle (empty)
1 x Off Cut of Black Card
1 x Snoot Grid
1 x Colour Gel (colour optional)
1 x Roll of Sticky Tape

Honestly gaffer tape would be much better but I couldn't find any (it's probably on the floor somewhere) so sticky tape had to do.

Assembly was extremely complex and involved several CAD drawings and a team of engineers. Fortunately though I am now able to present you with a simplified process ;)

Stick The Bottle To The Torch

Stick The Bottle To The Torch

Adding the bottle to the torch diffuses and scatters the light, helping to create a softer light trail with different brightness levels within it.  It almost gives the light a textured appearance, rather than just a solid beam. 

Next I cut a piece of black card, made a tube and taped it around the bottle.  It's basically acting as a snoot, focusing the light at the bottom of the bottle and preventing it spilling out all over the show.  You can of course dispense with the snoot, you'll find that it gives a different effect though and it wasn't what I was looking for in this particular case.

Wrap Black Card Around Bottle

Wrap Black Card Around Bottle

Light Leak!

Light Leak!

I should have made the card longer so it extended all the way over the bottle and blocked up the end,  Leaving it short like this meant unfiltered light leaked out and was captured along with the blue light, you can see this in the right hand image above.  By the way that's my daughter waving the light stick, if you look closely you can just about see her leopard print pyjamas!

In the end I just wrapped a cloth around the bottom part to block that unwanted light from view.

Next I stuck a blue gel over a grid, it's the type normally used in a snoot.  As luck would have it the little grid is almost exactly the same size as the end of the cardboard tube. Result! So it was simply a matter of fitting the grid into the tube and securing with a little tape.

Perfect Fit

Perfect Fit

Colour of Choice

Colour of Choice

I wanted a blue light so the reason for the gel is pretty obvious, the grid was added to reduce the light output (filter helped with that also) and narrow the beam. I found without the grid the light was too bright even if I stopped down and I was getting way too much flare.

And that's it!  One light painting brush/torch/wand/stick (whatever!) complete.  It did the job. The fact that it looks like something a 3 year old made in art class and that it will almost certainly fall apart, doesn't really matter.  It was the right tool, at the right time, low cost and low effort.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to drop me an email or look me up on social media if you want to get in touch.

Darren :)

In All It's Sticky Taped Glory!

In All It's Sticky Taped Glory!

A few examples of the effect achieved with this DIY light painting brush.  These three images are pretty much straight out of camera, they have just had black/white adjustments in Lightroom and the clarity bumped up a bit.

Moving To Squarespace

I was never really happy with my original website, I guess it was ok but really it was never what I had originally intended and it lacked any real direction or sense of purpose.  

So I decided to take a fresh look at it and basically start from scratch.  I had previously used Wordpress but it wasn't for me, all those options, add-ons and things to configure, it's great if you're in to that but it just left me with too many ways to mess it up!  

So after a few trials I finally settled on Squarespace as the platform for my new site.  Set up is pretty simple and doesn't require any coding or other 'techie' knowledge (though there are options for that if you are so inclined), templates have a modern look and feel and most importantly, I'm pretty sure I can't break it.  

All in all I'm very pleased with the result and happy to now have a site that is closer to my original vision.  Always room for improvement of course but at least now I feel I'm on the right track.

Check it out at :)



Aaron Blaise - Something for the Weekend

So in my last post I mentioned that we have a spot in our living room reserved for a wonderful print by Aaron Blaise and I wanted to write a quick post pointing you in his direction. Aaron is an incredibly talented artist who worked as an animator for Disney for over twenty years.  It's not everyone that can say they have worked on The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan and Beauty and The Beast, to name just a few, now that's what you call an impressive resume! Oh and I forgot to mention he also directed Brother Bear and do you remember the wonderful John Lewis Christmas advert, The Bear and the Hare, from a couple of years ago? Well guess who did the animation!

In fact, as it's November.........well it's always worth another watch :)

It just never fails to make me feel all warm and festive, no matter how many times I've seen it before.

Aaron's work though isn't just limited to traditional drawing, painting and animation. He is also an amazing digital artist and produces some simply stunning pieces using Photoshop. I have personally picked up many tips and techniques from reading Aaron's blog and watching his videos, he also does a some great custom brush sets for Photoshop which are worth checking out.

So there you go, a quick Friday evening post, you can see more of Aaron Blaise's work over at his website The Art of Aaron Blaise and on his Youtube channel.

Hope you enjoy your weekend :)

Cheers Darren

Nothing Worse Than An Empty Wall

IMG_0572 There's nothing worse than an empty wall, a big empty space just crying out to have something hung on it. Whatever your preference, from fine art to family photos, having something on display really completes a room.  At least that's my thinking.

Well a couple of months ago we moved house. With that of course comes the inevitable reorganising, redecorating and endless rearranging of furniture to try to make it fit in such a way, that watching the TV doesn't give you whiplash and getting out of bed in the dark doesn't require wearing steel toe caps, to prevent the painful stubbing of my delicate toes.

Fortunately the worst is over. And I still have all my toes!

Unfortunately though, some of our wall art doesn't really suit the new place, particularly in the living room which was already nicely decorated and hasn't required an overhaul. The wall paper though, has such a bold pattern that whatever goes on the wall has to be simple and definitely not floral!

Now we have a fantastic print coming by one of my favourite artists, Aaron Blaise, which is going to look awesome above the fireplace but that leaves the back wall looking decidedly empty, and there's nothing worse than an empty wall right!

So I decided to create something myself. Something with a simple composition that would bring a splash of colour to the otherwise monochrome expanse and with autumn subtly spreading through Glenarm Forest, I didn't have to look to far for inspiration.

Autumn leaves, water drop and a splash

Haven't quite decided on the final crop yet, will have a play about with it before sending the file off to Loxely Colour and I think, I'll order one of their fabulous Alumini prints. Regardless though of what crop, or what type of product I end up with, the important thing for me is that I have created something and that it won't just spend the rest of its days on a hard drive.

In a digital age we are all a little guilty of keeping images as pixels on a screen but really, a photograph doesn't truly come to life until you can hold it in your hands.

Hope you having a good weekend :) Darren

A Few Eggs & A Lot of Heart

So my seven-year old niece, Chloe, is a budding chicken farmer and something of a junior entrepreneur!  She has about fifteen hens at the moment and supplies most of the family with fresh, free range eggs and take it from me, they are really yummy! She actually does quite well out of it and really does run it like a little business, using the money she makes to buy feed, bedding and has even recently invested in additional hens to increase production.  Quite the little business woman!  Of course she does get a little help from mum & dad and I don't expect she will be supplying Tesco anytime soon but as the saying goes, from small acorns........

Anyway, whats all this got to do with photography I hear you ask.  Well, a couple of weeks ago we visited Chloe and bought some eggs as usual and I noticed that she had put a small white sticker on the outside of the carton, on which she had written (in fluorescent pink) "Chloe's Eggs".  How cool is that!  She's only seven but is thinking about branding her product!!  I was so proud of her that I said we could take a few photos and get some labels professionally printed, so we put our heads together and came up with a few ideas and came up with this.

free range eggs inside a heart


The heart is actually a handbag (the handles have been cloned out of the final shot) with the mesh insert removed.  Fill with a few eggs, suspend from boom, a couple of diffused lights, some reflectors and there you have it.  Simple shot, nothing ground breaking but it has made one little girl very happy and hopefully cemented my position as 'best uncle ever!!'

We're not finished yet either, Chloe and I have another shot planned, one that's slightly more 'dynamic'.  I've already said too much, top-secret!  ;)


Thanks Darren