Light-Painting the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse

As a creative being, it’s important to me to find opportunities to photograph personal images whenever I can. Often when I wrap up my last shoot of the day, I’ll hang out after everyone leaves and just “play”.

After a fun Family Reunion session on the Sullivan’s Island beach last night, the moody low-lying clouds gave me an idea for a dramatic light-painted shot of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse.

I switched my camera’s white balance to tungsten, which gave the electric blue color to the sky. Knowing that the dry, dead sea oats are almost translucent this time of year, I decided to light them from an angle behind them to give that ethereal glow. Shooting with a Nikon D300 and the 14-24mm lens, I used the pop-up flash as my Master. I placed a RadioPopper Hot Shoe adapter on the camera, and used the RadioPopper Px Transmitter to control the remote flash. The off-camera flash was an SB-800 with a RadioPopper Px Receiver on it, set to Group A, manually dialed in at 1/2 power, and zoomed to 105mm. Knowing that I was going for a fairly contrasty look, and knowing that the angle of the flash (which was aimed back at towards the camera) would fool the meter, I knew that going with TTL was probably not the best option here. I had a full CTO orange gel on the flash to bring the oats back to their natural warm tone.

With such a wide-angle lens, the light fall-off from one end of the scene was pretty substantial. So in the first frame, I lit the right-hand set of oats. In the second frame I stepped back 10 feet or so and lit the left-hand set of tall reeds. Later I combined the two exposures with a layer mask in Photoshop, added a little lens flare to the lighthouse, and cropped the final image for my final 1:2 panoramic image.

I hope you like it…and I hope this inspires you to do something creative today!!!


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