Light Painting Against a Milky Way Backdrop

Light painting is an interesting long-exposure photography technique that you can use to create artistic images. With this technique, you can use artificial light to highlight a selected portion or particular elements in the frame. Only those elements where you decide to light paint will be visible in the final image while the rest will remain in darkness. Photographer Mads Peter Iversen demonstrates an interesting application of this technique. He light paints an old dolmen and creates a composite with the Milky Way in the background:

Since you’ll be working in darkness, it’s a good idea to arrive a couple hours before the sun sets. This way you can find the best composition while there’s still some sunlight. Look for a strong and interesting foreground, which will make your image a whole lot interesting. Also, if you want to include the Milky Way in your composition like Iversen does, do your research beforehand. Know when and where the Milky Way will be rising and prepare accordingly.

As Iversen demonstrates, the trick in light painting is to start the long exposure and jump into the scene with a light source and start painting with light over your foreground. The longer you paint, the brighter the subject will appear in the final image. Be careful not to overexpose! Also, make sure you don’t point the light source toward the camera.

If it’s the first time that you’re using this technique, you may want to start with a small subject. Also, make sure to go back and forth a couple of times to check the exposure, intensity and direction of the light. This way, you will also have a better understanding of lighting in photography.

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