A Magical Night of Painting with Light

Posted in Blog, Learn, Photography

About 100 miles east of Portland on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge  is a Stonehenge replica build by a character named Sam Hill as a war memorial in connection with his elaborate mansion Maryhill.

The setting was perfect for a gathering of a group of nine semi-masochistic women photographers from the Women Learning Photography Together Meetup group, led by the inimitable Rebecca Evans and Dawn Baker, assisted by their minions Pat Dickerson and Val Drake to do light painting, and the ever popular steel wool spinning.

Although bundled in many layers, the newbies were ever so grateful for the generous sharing of hand warmers – it was hard enough to work the camera controls in the dark, but the compounding of not being able to feel the buttons made it especially challenging.

We had the place to ourselves. After quickly setting up tripods facing the altar slab, Dawn placed a small light on the altar for us to auto-focus on in the dark, then we switched to manual focus. Tests were run on various ISO/shutter speed/aperture settings, and then the fun began.

First, steel wool spinning. A gob of fine grade steel wool is stuffed into a common kitchen wire whisk which is attached to a dog leash. The designated spinner (wearing a fireproof jacket)  clambers up onto the altar rock, lights the steel wool on fire and starts spinning it like a whirling dervish – in front, around, over her head. Sparks fly! Cameras click – most running for 20 – 30 seconds. On playback, the cold air is filled with squeals and oohs and ahhhs.

Again! Again! We all beg like 5 year olds…

A few more steel-woolies, then the light sticks – crazy combinations of flashlights and long colored plastic crayons recently garnered from the dollar store. Rebecca swirls and spins them across the grounds as cameras silently record the antics.

A few more plays with light on the stones and the trees, and the lightweights of us head home, leaving behind the diehards to dream up more ways to capture light and take our breath away.

More on light painting at this link, more on steel wool spinning at this link.