Are you listening? Just one more time!

August 17, 2017

AGAIN, again, again… Again, again, again, again, again, again, again. AGAIN! Again? Again, again, again. Again. Again. Again, again. AGAIN, Again, again… aaaaaagaaaaain! Again, again, again. AGAIN! Again, again, again and again.

Sick of me saying again?


You must have a sense of relief.

Just like Jess Rae (aka Doodley Squat) did after two and a half hours of me asking her to draw one of her cartoon characters, but not on paper.

Oh, no. That would be too easy.

Instead I demanded it be done in midair.

In the dark.

Oh, yes, life sized.

It’s not often a photographer gets to pull a trick such as light drawing for a women’s magazine cover shoot.

The concept of Jess partnered with a full size Doodley was too much of a temptation to pass up.

It would’ve been easy to get her to draw something on paper and for one of our graphic artists to Photoshop onto the cover with the picture of Jess.

But I didn’t want that, I wanted the hard way, the ‘genuine’ way.

For many photographers light drawing isn’t something new, and I’ll admit that it’s a bit trendy to open up the shutter and play around with LEDs, light tubes and even burning cotton wool.

The first thing needed for this shoot is a camera that can be controlled manually.

The shutter needs to be open while the drawing is created and the easiest way to do this is to set the camera shutter to its B (bulb) setting.

On modern cameras one click opens the shutter, another closes it.

Because the camera will be on bulb hand holding it won’t work as it is not possible to keep the camera completely still during exposure – but a tripod will.

Then find a dark place to take the photo.

The camera will have an open shutter for a long time; it was about 75 seconds for Jess to do the drawing.

Any natural light will also make an exposure on the sensor.

We were lucky enough to borrow the Foundry Art Space at night so we could turn the lights out and start creating some photo magic.

The final thing needed is something to draw with.

For this shoot I used an everyday LED torch.

In theory it’s easy.

Open the shutter, get someone to draw something pretty, close shutter.

But doing something complex like a cartoon character with eyes, mouth, arms, legs and hair and a colour dress is much, much, much easier said than done.

Hence all those agains.

Jess had to use quick muscle memory to remember where the head was drawn so she could place the eyes and mouth.

After each element was drawn with the torch she had to cover the torch so there wouldn’t be lines of light attaching arms to hair, and the mouth to the hair.

Once the outline of the cartoon was drawn she had to turn her back and cover the torch with pink cellophane to colour in the dress.

It took incredible skill to draw in the pitch black after being blinded by a flash, not to mention the fact she was drawing on nothing in stygian surrounds.

It took around 30 attempts and two hours to get the result we wanted.

Yes our patience was tested, and I think both of us at some stage thought it wasn’t going to happen (and at least one of us must have considered murdering the other).

I must admit my role turned from photographer to coach/supporter as Jess got closer and closer to getting the drawing to work.

I’m rapt she didn’t give up as it made for a memorable photo and super cover.

Camera: Canon EOS1D-X, Exposure: 75 seconds at f/22, ISO 50, flash in reflective umbrella to right hand side.

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