Monday, September 7, 2015

Painting with Light

In preparation for taking school pictures, Computer Graphics students have been learning about photography. Yes, I said taking school pictures. My school district started that plan several years ago and it's been successful for them. The art students take the photos (we are part of the CTE pathway) and the business classes handle the orders. School pictures start tomorrow and will be held every morning this week.

I'm a fan of etymology and I think explaining root words can help students better understand the meaning and get better at discerning the meanings of unfamiliar words. If you break the word "photograph" down into its roots, photo means light and graph means writing so photography means light writing. It makes sense- early photographs were made by exposing silver particles on treated plates to light which recorded the image. In our photography unit, we watched a TED-Ed video about the history of photography, watched a video about aperture settings by Jared at FroKnowsPhoto, practiced aperture and shutter speed settings outside, attempted forced perspective photography (more on that later), had a trial run of school pictures, and painted with light.

One fun way to really drive home the point about "light writing" is to "paint" with light.We made our light paintings by going into a totally dark room and taking a long exposure photograph while we used lights to write, draw, or paint. The path of the light and anything it shows is recorded on the image. We used a tripod for our 10 second exposures and tried out different ideas. You don't need a fancy camera to try light painting, you just need to be able to change the shutter speed and put the camera on a tripod.
Students took turns directing and posing, even though some needed a little encouragement to get involved.

 Above left, a student discovered that he could shine a bright light from underneath one of the tables to make a cool pattern on top. Above right, a student used the multicolored screen on her phone as a light.
It took a few tries but we finally got a pretty good sword fight photo.

For now, I'm just planning on this being a one day exploration. If students develop some ideas, we may reserve another day in a few weeks to go back to the basement for more light writing. I also may check out digital cameras to students who wish to do light painting or night photography at home.

Light painting lesson plan available on the smARTteacher:

Here's a video we watched about light painting the day before the activity:

The history of photography video we watched on the first day is here:

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