October 20, 2009

Painting with Flash

This July, I took a group of students to picturesque Brookfield Illinois to experiment with and discover the true potential of small shoe mount flash units. The goal was to split up and emulate techniques of O. Winston Link in a modern fashion.

While everyone did a great job two groups in particular really rose to the challenge.

The first group ‘painted with flash’ to create their images. During a long exposure they popped the flash multiple times to build up the exposure, using the number of pops to control the exposure. At the end of the day students had surrounded the art deco Brookfield Water Pumping Station, each popping a specific number of times to get the exposure where they wanted.

The same group ‘painted with light’ the newly installed footbridge in the same fashion for this image.

The second group did something especially unique. April 9th 1981 the historic Grossdale train station was moved from its post at the tracks to its new home a half block down the street, where it is now the Brookfield Historical Society.

A rather boring cinder block train station replaced it. The group chose to shoot the historic Grossdale station where it stands and composite it back to where it originally stood. Using several historic images the location was determined and exposures were made at each site.

To photograph the Grossdale station the group used a combination of existing, or practical fixtures and several well-placed strobes to define the front of the building after it was removed from the background. The roof was a dusk exposure that was adjusted in Photoshop to match the exposure.

The final result was a 30x40 print that was fantastic!


  1. Good information. Very interesting - even for a non photographer.

  2. The "painting with light" made me think of a guy down here in NOLA, Frank Relle, who does what he calls nightscapes. I think he just does long exposures, but not sure. His site is www.frankrelle.com

    -Amy K.

  3. Also, Adam has taken some cool photos at night by setting a long exposure and then running around an object with a flashlight!