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Enginursday: Light Painting with EL Wire and an LED

Long exposure experiments with dancers, EL Wire suits, an LED and DSLR camera.

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My original goal was to wirelessly control each of my student's suits to the beat during their performance way back in 2017. Shortly after their performance, I decided to document the project with a photoshoot. Everything was going according to plan until I wanted the photographer to highlight the glow from EL Wire. It was a bit harder to capture with a camera, since EL wire is not as bright as the non-addressable LEDs that were used in previous builds. We decided to try to take a few pictures in the dark. After removing the spotlight on the kids, the photographer tweaked a few camera settings on his DSLR.

As you can see in the images below, EL wire is hard to see when there are other light sources in the room. Removing the additional light source will make it easier to see and capture the EL Wire's glow on camera.

EL Hoodie and Pants Worn on Dancers in Front of a Spot Light EL Hoodie and Pants Worn on Dancers in the Dark
EL Wire in the Light EL Wire in the Dark

Briefly reviewing a few photos, we had an unintended effect during their photoshoot! The images coming from the light sources started to trail whenever the kids moved around. It was not on my mind until that moment but I thought it was cool opportunity to try a little light painting [1] with EL Wire and the wireless controller's LED.

Long Exposure with Kids Not Holding Freeze

Two dancers circled in red - they're blurry because of movement

Dancing in the Dark

After an hour-long photoshoot and taking several pictures, we got some pretty cool shots. We experimented with no movement, slow/fast movements, and then a combination of both. The main settings that he tweaked manually as his Canon EOS 6D stood on a tripod were:

  • ISO
  • aperture (i.e. F-Stop)
  • shutter speed (exposure time)

Check out the pictures with some of their camera settings below. Note that these settings will depend on your camera's image sensor and brightness of the light source(s).

Photo ISO F-Stop Exposure Time
EL Wire on Dancers in the Dark 1250 f/4 2 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with Some Movement in the Dark 1250 f/4 2 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with a Lot of Movement in the Dark 1250 f/4 3.2 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with One Dancer Moving Quickly in the Dark 3200 f/4 3.2 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with One Dancer Moving Quickly in the Dark 3200 f/4 3.2 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with One Dancer Moving Quickly in the Dark 3200 f/5 10 seconds
EL Wire on Dancers with One Dancer Moving Quickly in the Dark 3200 f/5 15 seconds
Photographs Courtesy of Jesse Rarick

A few these were a bit difficult to capture since a majority of the pictures required the kids to hold a pose for more than a second, which is hard since they are kids. This caused them to be appear ghostly and blurry for the longer exposed shots whenever they were not supposed to move. Overall, it was not too bad for our first time trying to light paint with a photographer.

Have you tried creating a light painting using EL Wire or LEDs? If so, what do you prefer? Feel free to share your light paintings and let us know your thoughts below in the comments.


Comments 3 comments

  • These photos came out great!! It's been a trip following this project through all your blog posts on the subject, but this might be my favorite so far. I love it when "happy little accidents" become moments of inspiration.

  • That's some awesome artwork. Nicely done on the suits and the photography!

  • Wow! great info i really liked the detailed writing, quite helpful. Cheers.

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