Oberlin Blogs

A Particularly Enlightening Post

November 8, 2011

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

I'm smack in the middle of the second round of my ExCo, Learning to See: My Camera and Me. After having eight totally awesome students to kick off the class last semester, I didn't think it was possible to get any better, to find another set of kids who were as interested in photography and as driven to explore the potential of their cameras and their creative abilities.

Well, I did. I found eight more students who have been constantly knocking my socks off in terms of the photos they have been creating and what they have to say about their cohorts' creations. They are all freaking great. We talk photographic philosophy, technical specs, constructive critique, and just generally everything visually cool that's under the sun. We exchange emails about cool things we referenced in class. Sometimes we go on photo walks. Sometimes we ditch class to put a technique we discussed into action.

Well, it's not ditching class if it's in the middle of class and we're all implementing stuff we just learned in class. Last week, someone asked a question about light painting. After explaining it, everyone echoed the same "COOOOOOL." sentiment, and after McCoy proudly pulled out the tripod he had picked up over break, we all decided to head outside King and see what we could "paint" on the world around us.

Students stand in a window and makes shapes with light

Students stand in a window and make more light shapes

We first experimented with what painting with light actually produces in photos. There are exactly eight little spots in the King building facade, which is just perfect for my class and for the framing of this photo.

Then we each took turns writing our names. Cursive won out over print, 5-3.

A light painting of the name Silvia

Silvia employed the "blue light" approach.

A cursive light painting of the name Hillary

Hillary was our first exploration into cursive writing.

A cursive light painting of the name Cassie

Cursive II: Cassie.

A cursive light painting of the name Elizabeth

Elizabeth's name was so long that we had to up the exposure to twenty seconds for her to get all the letters in.

A light painting of the name McCoy

McCoy reversed his Y, but made up for it by posing at the end.

A light painting of the name Jordan

Jordan also did a brief pose at the end.

A cursive light painting of the name Tess

Look! It's Tess!

A hard to read light painting of the name Alex

Alex's name almost looks like a secret code.

For those of you who don't know what light painting is (also know as light graffiti, long exposures, extended exposures, and even more names than that), here's what's up:

A type of photograph like this can happen because it is based on the tenet of regardless of how much light exists, you can always take a photo. You may have to adjust the camera to properly capture the image (in the dark, it takes much longer — sometimes up to several seconds or several minutes — to properly expose the picture), but you can always take a photo.

Based on that, we used the fact that the camera was taking several seconds to take the photo to our advantage and decided to "paint" with the light we had available. Whenever a camera sees light, it'll capture it (in short, that's how photography works).

We had about 10 seconds in which the camera was taking the photo to do as many lines and doodles with flashlights (or cell phones or iPhones) as possible. With the name photos, people turned on and off the flashlights to make separate letters, or kept the light on and swooped it around to make cursive.

Super awesome, right? Right. This is how awesome my class is. We just talk about these things all the time and then we go out and DO them, too. I know you're jealous, but I guess you'll just have to visit or take my class or something to fulfill this gap of coolness in your life.

Each painter paints a letter in the word Oberlin

And then we rocked the Oberlin love. ♥!


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