Painting with Light

In How to, Inspiration

As the school year draws to a close and my classes are finished with their gallery projects, it gets harder and harder to keep my students’ attention.  This year, I’ve resorted to light painting in the classroom.  There’s no homework involved, no lectures to prepare, no glossary words to memorize.   The technique requires very little set up to achieve fantastic and awe-inspiring results.  The biggest challenge lies in managing a classroom after you turn out the lights.  (Trust me, being in the dark with a classroom full of 8th graders is not for the faint of heart…)  We start with a camera on a tripod, or a bookcase or a table – really, any stable surface will do.  I set the camera to manual mode and dial in the highest aperture I can, which in this case was F22.  Then I put the ISO to a low number (100) and the shutter speed to anything longer than 5 seconds.  Before I turn out the lights, I make sure that I set the focus on the area in my frame and then switch the lens to manual focus so that it doesn’t have any issues finding a point in the dark.  At this point, I arm my students with a variety of inexpensive light-up objects and let them go to town waving them in front of the camera.  The first few images are always a hot mess of craziness but once the students realize what’s happening in their long exposure they quickly become more diligent in their approaches.

The real point of the lesson is how important it is to try something new – especially when you don’t know what the end result will be – and how much fun you can have in the process of trial and error.  There were no grades, no papers to write about the process, no presentations to give, just the uninhibited joy of play.  Maybe I can learn something from this lesson too?

Finding fun in the process – Angie

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