I found myself in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan Canada this week. After enjoying a day exploring the area I decided to hang around for sunset and potentially, a 'milky way over the prairie' shot. During the day I had noticed an old gnarly tree and thought it would make an interesting foreground.
I made some nice sunset shots before driving to the location of the tree. Once there I made a few practice shots for framing and composition. When I made those test shots I didn't much like the silhouette in the foreground, it was just too dark, so I decided to have a go at light painting.
I've had a bit of a go at this before and enjoyed it, but then forgot all about it and didn't do any more. So, with my trusty little LED torch in hand I wafted this way and that across the tree during a 20 second exposure. Once the shutter closed I saw the abomination of light and shadow I'd created and immediately tried again, and again, and again.
Eventually I began to get into the torch wafting and got a more balanced light across the tree, though it really is much more difficult than you might imagine. At first I didn't like the spill light on the grass but after making a few shots without it I changed my mind.
Ultimately, I managed a couple of reasonable shots, the haze was caused by wildfire smoke and brought with it some scattered light from sunset adding to the image overall. I'm sure I will look back on this shot and cringe a little, but it's an experiment and one that worked out ok for the first try.
If I manage to nail the technique after a bit more practice I'll post a tutorial, for now all you need to know is, make a long exposure and shine a light on your foreground object during the shot. If you are new to night shooting you might want to check out my basic night shooting tutorial.
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