Freedom Night A light painting story

Freedom Night

I took this photo very early in my photography sojourn. Not to assume anyone’s previous work is any less essential or holds less value, but most photographers exercise tenacity and creativity to the umpteen degree in their beginning stages. Perhaps this story is close to that scenario.

Freedom Night is a light painting of a mural opposite the County Court building next to the Jailhouse. For homework, at a photography composition class, we were asked to produce light painting photo works. The assignment in 2016 with my first camera, a Nikon D5500, was yet another adventure. I have never done light painting prior but dared to envision something crazy, a kick-the-box concept.

I borrowed an actual large birdcage, hauled it to this location as planned. I walked on snow (footsteps visible as though ‘the person on the wall’ walked), placing the physical birdcage near the “person,” releasing birds.

It was already a cold and pitch night. I used a tripod for this 30-seconds exposure shot. I set the camera in manual mode at ISO 100, locked-in focus to the drawing of the man on the wall with a flashlight.

Utilizing my iPhone flashlight, I painted the wall to expose the person and birds on the wall. I failed miserably many times as I walked back the same way I started after hitting the shutter. (I did not have a shutter remote at that time.) I kept seeing my shadow in the frame when I viewed the shots on the camera screen.

Working alone in the frigid condition and not seeing any ’light’ as an outcome of this project made me want to throw in the towel and leave.

Even with brain freeze, the thought of not getting anything at the end of that long night was just too much of a conflict. For some reason, when keeping at it, on one occasion, I walked out of the frame on the right side, instead of the same way back - the shadow disappeared, and I was not in the frame!

The photo below is an outcome after over three dozen shots. Sadly though, I do not have this image in high resolution. Perhaps I did not shoot in RAW mode. When my homework photo was shown in class the following week, my instructor was thrilled!

When the class found out I had called the town Police to notify about my venture in the dark, it drew a good laugh yet with a genuine appreciation for all the elements and preparation in place for my first attempt at light painting.

Just for the record, someone was in a police car watching the comedy from a distance just to make sure everything was alright. A brown guy with a large birdcage at night, walking back and forth, looking at his camera screen near the jail, is not a typical scene.

Freedom Night is special to me. Freedom Night is about effort and tenacity. Freedom Night is my version of a limited edition. I call this my class graduation shot.

In this composition, improvising on someone else’s (Banksy-like) mural art does count. True?

Freedom Night


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Created By
Raj Manickam