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  • Stephen Knight

10 Years of Light Painting

Updated: Jul 1

2024 marks 10 years since I took up light painting photography. This article takes a retrospective look at how my light painting photography has evolved over the last 10 years, and where I see things heading.


I have always been a hobbyist photographer rather than professional, though pretty soon after buying my first digital camera in 2002, a 2MP Olympus C2, I was getting access all areas passes as a nightclub photographer in London. Whilst not technically light painting, the default "night portrait" mode was a handheld 2 second exposure with flash, which created some interesting effects under dynamic nightclub lighting. My first light painting photo was an "intentional camera movement" photo taken in 2004 when I upgraded to a Canon S50 and was playing around with manual mode, so my first light painting was actually 20 years ago. Despite doing lots of long exposure cityscape photography, I didn't return to light painting photography until 2014.


Nightclub portrait in 2002 with a 2MP camera.
Nightclub portrait in 2002 with a 2MP camera.
My first attempt at kinetic light painting in 2004.
My first attempt at kinetic light painting in 2004.

In 2014 I was inspired by urbex photography I had seen on Flickr, notably by two Brisbane urban explorers - Metawaffle, and the late DeScent (Flickr account "Darkday"). The former created beautiful illumination of interesting spaces with warm and cool white light (bi-color), and the latter created light trail effects with light wands and sparklers. After following the breadcrumbs, I ended up in an interesting subterranean space with a Ledlenser P7QC torch to create some colourful light trails. Over the next few years, I occasionally ended up in some unique liminal spaces, and illuminated them with a lighting techiques that varied from "classy" to "clown vomit".


One of my first attempts at creating light trails in 2014.
One of my first attempts at creating light trails in 2014.

In late 2015, I was inspired by photos I was seeing on Flickr and resources such as Jason D Page's Light Painting Photography where light painters were creating light trails (known as light drawing), and subsequently built my own LED light wand.


Light painting with a DIY LED light wand.
Light painting with a DIY LED light wand.

In 2016, I built an RGB light wand, though I think I preferred the original. I started to research better torches/flashlights for light painting, joining Candle Power Forums, and Budget Light Forums. By luck, I won a Convoy L6 torch in a competition on BLF and was asked to review it. This was the start of my torch reviewing side hustle.


Beam shot from my first torch/flashlight review.
Beam shot from my first torch/flashlight review.

2017 was a big year for my light painting. With Flickr in a death spiral, I begrudgingly joined Facebook, but thankfully found that it had a healthy and inspiring light painting community. There was lots of sharing of information and techniques with both commercial light painting systems and DIY light painting tools. My torch reviews helped many light painters discover the optimal torches for their light painting techniques. My own techniques evolved as I started to use commercial light painting tools such as Light Painting Brushes, as well as EL wire, and DIY tools such as bubble wands. I also created my first light plants, inspired by a wide range of light painters and art nouveau floral swirls. I was also involved with the first of many meetups with Brisbane based light painters including Sam Hooper and the late David Chesterfield. I was asked by Jannis Sid to start writing for the Light Painting Blog, and wrote the first of the annual "Best Flashlights for Light Painting" articles.


Spirally light painting in Perth, Australia.
Spiral light painting in Perth, Australia.
One of my earlier light plants.
One of my earlier light plants.

In 2018, I started to attempt light painting portraits, setup my Instagram account, and also re-popularised the light tunnel technique using lights such as the Threeworlds Concentrate C5. I purchased a custom light from Ryu's Lightworks which had both adjustable strobe frequency and strobe brightness. A trip see my family over 2018/19 Christmas/New Year period allowed me to light paint at some cool locations in the UK and Finland, including a fun meetup with 12 light painters at Moreton Corbet castle.


One of my first light painting portraits.
One of my first light painting portraits.

Light tunnel created with a Concentrate C5.
Light tunnel created with a Concentrate C5.

Light painting at Moreton Corbet Castle, UK.
Light painting at Moreton Corbet Castle, UK.

2019 was a good year for torches, with the TLF/BLF FW3A being the first commercially available torch with the Anduril UI, which featured adjustable strobe frequency. This UI was then used in lights such as the Lumintop FW1A, Noctigon KR1 and KR4. Light Excursion created a range of homemade RGB torches, of which I used a few versions. I became an ambassador for Light Painting Paradise, who make professional quality light painting tools. All of these helped improve my light painting techniques considerably, and I think my light painting evolved the most in this year. Also, a company called Ants On A Melon (AOAM) announced the rather interesting RGB Critter on Kickstarter.


A light plant of 2019 vintage.
A light plant of 2019 vintage.

Despite numerous lockdowns in 2020 (including one that started just hours after I had finished a workshop for Sony Scene), I managed to do quite a lot of light painting. Light Painting Paradise introduced the LightPainter Ryu's - Lightworks torch which became very popular in the light painting scene. I also got back into urbex photography, armed with Convoy S2+ torches in various CCTs, I was able to produce photos of the Metawaffle style that originally inspired me. I was also interviewed by Aaron Culmer for one of his 'Dude Where's My Flashlight' YouTube videos. I found that around 2020, the light painting scene became much more commercialised, and the light painting community increasingly divided by these allegences. Impartial technique and equipment discussions that were common in 2017 became few and far between. A couple of light painting groups on Facebook started to reject my reviews as it didn't align with their commercial goals, so I had to find other sources of viewers.

Urbex photography using lights with different colour temperatures.
Urbex photography using lights with different colour temperatures.

In 2021, I finally got around to setting up my own website. This was initially for sharing a portfolio of my photos. However, as I was the only remaining writer on Light Painting Blog, I decided to move my new reviews across to this website as well as writing tutorial articles. This turned out to be good move, and also allowed affiliate income from reviews to help fund purchasing more lights for review (not everything gets sent to me for free).


Light painting with a LACE Backlight Scanner.
Light painting with a LACE Backlight Scanner.

2022 welcomed the RGB Critter. This was the first commercial standard colour mixing RGB Flashlight. This was quite revolutionary, but the first version was in need of multiple user interface improvements. I Beta tested the RGB Critter 2.0, which had significant improvements in the user interface, and has allowed for huge improvements in creativity for myself and other light painters.


Crazy colours from the RGB Critter 2.0.
Crazy colours from the RGB Critter 2.0.

2023 was a good year for light painting portraits. Teaming up with many excellent models, in particular a model called Belle who had exceptional keeping still skills, I was able to push my light painting portrait techniques to a higher level. I now have a waiting list of models for the first time! Later in the year, I was featured by photography website Shotkit.


Light painting portrait. Model: @belle_m_clare
Light painting portrait. Model: @belle_m_clare

I started off 2024 by being filmed for The Brisbane Channel on YouTube, which has good behind the scenes footage from an evening of light painting. 2024 is shaping up to be an awesome year for new torches/flashlights. I have Beta tested the new RGB Critter BT and Light Painting Paradise LightPainter Ryu's Lightworks V2.0. More RGB lights are in the works, which means that there has never been a better time for creating light trails. The light painting market is however quite niche, and the market may easily reach saturation. Portable battery powered RGB COB and LED panel lights designed for cinematic lighting are also taking over from using flashlights for the illumination side of light painting and night photography, allowing for more choice in colours, saturation, and colour temperature.



My 200th light plant in 2024.
My 200th light plant was created in 2024.

Whilst Instagram was the mainstay of getting photos seen on the internet, Instagram has entered the same death spiral that Flickr experienced 7 years earlier. There seems to be dissilusionment amongst photographers as to how to get your photos to be seen without having to resort to mind numbing short form videos. It should be noted that I now have more traffic from my website to social media, than from social media to my website. Based on traffic to/from my website, it appears that there are lots of light painters out there, but I would estimate that only a small percentage are active on social media. Still, it's not a bad thing that people are discovering the real world again, and spending less time on (anti-) social media.


AI art has surged in popularity. Whilst this can provide artists with easy to use tools to create art from a sofa, you just can't beat getting into the great outdoors (or confined spaces) to create art. It will be very interesting to see how light painting evolves during the next decade, the technology is getting better, photographers just need a better place online to share their art than what Meta is currently providing.


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