By ARMAND EMAMDJOMEH
With photographers crouched behind their tripods, the countdown reached zero and the visual orgy commenced. The air reverberated with a dozen clicks as light painters at Dolores Park on Wednesday night tried with cameras to catch the lights others waved frantically into the night sky.
“I thought the idea of actually painting with light was really interesting,” said Starr Smith, 35, an emerging music photographer for local jam bands, taking a drag of her cigarette. “And I love digital because you can just take hundreds of photos.”
Smith was among the 50 hip, young photographers and artists from around the Bay Area who participated in the meet-up organized by JPG magazine, Photojojo and the Lomographic society.
Light painting is a form of photography in which the shutter is left open for a very long time in a darkened environment. By shining a light source in front of the camera, designs can be burned into the exposure, treating the film or sensor like a canvas.
“I can’t even think of another place to do it,” said Amit Gupta, founder of the photo website Photojojo.com, when asked why Dolores Park was chosen for the meet-up. “This is a public place, very chill, not too hard to get to.”
“It’s kind of a hot park,” said Laura Brunow Miner, a JPG magazine editor who lives nearby. JPG is an online and print magazine dedicated to running user-submitted photography.
Gupta, 27, started Photojojo as a way for people to experiment and push the boundaries of what they can do with photography. He is also writing a book on different photography techniques.
As a hipster couple on the ground swigged from a flask, small groups of photographers and models used LEDs, light sabers and flashlights to create their pieces. Some stared quizzically at the plastic Diana cameras provided by the Lomographic society when they had to reload their film.
Lomography originated from cameras originally produced in the Soviet Union known for their simplicity, poor construction and unpredictable results. These results include over-saturated colors, schizophrenic exposures and occasional blurring and have produced a cult following worldwide. The Diana was first produced in Hong Kong in the 1960’s as a cheap novelty camera, and is now manufactured by Lomography.
Matt Nuzzaco provided the expertise and inspiration for the night. While conducting research for the light painting chapter of Gupta’s book, Nuzzaco, who works for Adobe’s Custom Solutions Group, discovered several different groups around the world dedicated to the practice.
“There’s this German group called Lichtfaktor who have really mastered it,” said Nuzzaco as he pulled cold cathode tubes, LEDs sequenced off a control board, and other lighting implements from his bag. He elicited oohs and aahs from the growing crowd as he demonstrated different techniques using strobe lights on a model.
The night ended as the gathering of hobbyist and professional photographers dispersed, having taken their
fill of silhouettes, psychedelic patterns and fairy wings, slugged their cameras, tripods and thousands of tiny canvasses into the night.