At photography college in Newcastle I learnt many exciting things. Each module we studied consisted of lots of technical matters & reports to write, with some sort of creative, practical element to really get my juices following. A particular favourite project was all about shooting in low light conditions...low light to the point of complete darkness. You'd be surprised, but complete darkness is my favourite kind of low light condition. A place were nothing can be seen, except maybe the eyes of an owl, if one happened to be hanging around. It was one freezing evening in Newcastle when we were instructed to meet in a rather unappealing location - by an overgrown expanse of woodland by a main road - with a digital SLR camera, tripod, torch & Quality Street chocolates. Led through the unappealing woodland, hopping & tripping over rocks & sticks, we arrived at an even more unappealing building - a half crumbling bungalow covered in graffiti, emitting a rather unpleasant smell of alcohol & wee. Torches were lit & we ventured inside, snaking through a maze of drafty rooms littered with broken glass & down stone stairs to a large hollow room where we set up our tripods facing a graffiti covered wall, in front of which out enthusiastic tutors were setting torches of fire & sparklers alight. A crazy, surreal demonstration of 'Light painting' - setting the camera on a high ISO, shallow depth of field & long shutter speed - we could capture the most incredible shots. Having had our demonstration we spent the rest of the evening creeping around the neglected building to have fun with our new tricks.
The Quality Street chocolates, by the way, were quite frankly a key ingredient in the whole affair. As well as providing us with a necessary sugar rush & injection of pleasure in the cold night air, we used their coloured opaque wrappers as filters on our torches. By doing so the light painting could be taken to another level of creativity where chocolate, art & photography formed an unlikely connection.
Around the time I was working on my 'Painting with Light' project, I chilled with my chum Will from the band 'Stokes, William' & my enthusiasm for the process seeped into our conversations. He liked the sound of some sort of chocolate-wrapper-darkness-photography technique & we planned for me to do a shoot of his band. So one weekend when they were hanging out in a barn doing some recording, I gathered my Quality Streets, Camera & tripod & we had an exciting night of torches, experimentation & darkness.
To create these photos, the guys had to stand still in a completely dark room - posing, instruments in hand. Still, in darkness, I sent my camera to ISO1600, f3.5 & a shutter speed of up to two minutes long. Once the shutter was released I made my way to the figures & used my torch to 'paint' around them. In some of them, I knelt down infront of them to spell out 'Stokes, William' (backwards) with a torch.
A rather tricky process to explain, an even trickier process to carry out...
For these photos here, the musicians weren't actually holding any instruments - they were created by using a torch to 'paint' the instruments in the air from the imagination AND in complete darkness. Easy? Not exactly. But effective? I certainly think so.