Larrie Thomson: Night Painting: Discover the Creative Potential of Night Photography and Light Painting
Article written by Nora Hartfelder, IACC Member
Larrie Thomson, a nocturnal photographer and dive master, started his website nightphotographer.com in 2000, and he is known for his photographs of nocturnal landscapes and abandoned places.
There are many things to be aware of when photographing at night, such as other people, animals, safety, and clothing based on the weather conditions (e.g., wear insulated coveralls). When working at night in rural areas, Larrie advised that you should scout out locations in daylight to spot hazards and see possible compositions. Also, landowners are easier to connect with during the day, so you can get permission to be on their properties. You also can always return to the best location at dusk. When working at night in urban areas, get to know the area you are working in, the exits and the people around you. Regrettably, he has been shot at and attacked and, therefore, prefers the abandoned outdoors rather than urban shoots. Larrie prefers to work alone. He said that although shooting in groups can be great for safety and interaction, it can be very distracting when too there are too many lights.
For Larrie, the night gives him the ultimate ability to control light. He believes in working the shadows and understanding where and what the light will do for an image. He advised us to watch our histogram as a good indicator of whether the photograph is properly exposed. Shooting by moonlight allows him to be creative and dramatic resulting in 'funkier' photos. Every full moon you can be assured he is in search of his next great photograph. Often, under the light of a full moon he will shoot for 5 to 8 minutes in bulb mode with a timer around his neck while he runs around to light paint. By adding additional light, he can create mood and atmosphere and hide and reveal aspects of his composition. Colour to the light is easily added with gels. He often will use a flash in test mode to get light in a scene. Because he shoots with such long exposure and he wears dark clothes, he can walk through his scene and not be caught in his photos. Night photography allows him to tell the passage of time in a single still image; e.g., moving clouds, pinwheel star trails around the North Star.
At the end of his presentation, there were many excellent questions, including about a good flashlight. He said that beam pattern is more important than the brightness of flashlights. He mentioned that he often uses underwater LED lights from www.underwaterkineticscanada.com.
Thank you so much to Larrie for sharing his expertise and photographs, and for challenging us to push the limits and to experiment.
Photographs below © Larrie Thomson
Larrie believes there are five challenges to night photography.
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Updated March 18, 2018