So I’ve created a new category for my blog: “Try This“. Here I’m going to post occasional articles about projects for you to try, with tips and ideas. Make it a weekend project, or a day project, whatever you like. Tonight I’m going to suggest you try Light Painting. There are a number of different interpretations to this, but the easiest thing to do is essentially to get a torch, put the camera on a tripod with a long exposure, and move the torch around in front of the camera. How easy is it? If you’re comfortable with manual camera controls, then it should be easy (and why haven’t you tried it already?), if not it may take a bit of practice, so here goes with a bit of a guide…

What do you need?

You will need a camera that enables you to manually control the exposure and aperture (ideally an SLR, although many compact cameras do give you these controls), a tripod to hold the camera still, and a small torch of some sort. You will also need darkness, ideally outside because if you’re in a small room then you may get unintended results with reflected light.

What do you do?

Get started by setting yourself a scene in a dark garden or very dark room. You will need to get the camera focused which can be tricky in the dark. one way to do this is to point both the camera and the torch at an object that is the same distance away to which you are going to stand, and depressing the shutter button half way. Using the torch like this helps the camera to see what it needs to focus on. Once this is done, you can switch the lens to manual focus so that the camera does not try and refocus while it can’t see anything. From now on, ensure you don’t adjust the focus ring on the lens, and ensure that you and your torch are the same distance away from the camera as the object you previously focused on.

Next, we need to set the exposure and aperture setting. If you’re not sure about these, I won’t go into detail here; there are plenty of books and online tutorials that will be able to explain this much better than me. basically, though, the smaller the aperture, or larger the ‘ƒ stop’ number, the longer the exposure time needs to be to let the same amount of light in. If it’s too low and the exposure is too short, you won’t get time to do the painting with your torch. With my images I used a 10 second exposure, with an aperture of ƒ22. This meant that the lightbulb of the torch showed up nicely, and gave me enough time to paint. You will need to experiment, because these settings will vary depending on the lens type, zoom and all sorts of other factors (including the brightness of the torch). Make sure the camera’s flash is switched off, the shot will not work.

First attempt: drawing lines, lines going out of picture
First attempt: drawing lines, lines going out of picture

Now we can try taking a picture: use the camera’s self timer function to take a picture, get into position with your torch, and while the camera is taking the picture, point the torch at it and move it around.


Now, let’s look at the results. You may find it’s worked perfectly first time, but if it hasn’t, change the settings and try again. You may want a completely dark background, so if you do and some of it is still visible, try setting the ƒ-stop number to a higher number, keeping the exposure time the same. You can also reduce the ISO setting, the camera’s film speed equivalent, to the lowest you can set it to, for example ISO 100. This is essentially reducing the camera’s sensitivity to light. If your torchlight is too dull, increase the ISO or reduce the ƒ-stop number. Always experiment with single-step adjustments so you can see how it’s affecting your results. Remember also you can change the speed you move the torch.

This doesn’t need any special equipment, if you have a camera, check the user manual for manual exposure and aperture settings, if you can do that, then that’s all you really need. If you haven’t got a tripod, rest the camera on a pile of books on a table so it’s at the right height (I’m not taking responsibility if it falls off!). Tripods are very cheap, and it’s worth investing in one if you haven’t got one, even if only so you can be in your own group shots.

Taking it further

"I love u" light painting, I used a dry erase marker to colour in the torch lens
“I love u” light painting, I used a dry erase marker to colour in the torch lens

Now you’ve mastered this, try a bit more experimenting. Control the light by turning the torch on and off while you’re drawing, in the same way as you’d lift a pen off the paper when writing. Get coloured sweet wrappers that let some light through to stick or hold over the torch so you can colour your lines.

Light painted heart, the torch lens was coloured with a red pen
Light painted heart, the torch lens was coloured with a red pen

In my coloured examples, I simply used a drywipe marker and coloured over the lens of the torch. Use two torches, or use even more torches with more people. Practice this now, and then use sparklers on Bonfire Night.

Why not position the camera further away, and get a several people to help. Position several people side by side, each with a torch, and get each person to draw a letter so you can make longer words. If you’re drawing letters or writing words remember to draw them backwards, or you will need to mirror the image afterwards, and if there is more than one person, make sure you’re all doing it the same way!

Have fun, I’d love to see your results; share them on the Facebook page. Need advice? Post a comment here and I’ll see how I can help.


Yesterday I took a second visit to the Second World War pillbox, just on the outside of Horsham. There are a number of pillboxes in and around Horsham itself, but they form part of a greater line of defences called the Arun-Ouse Stop Line, the first major line of defences inland from the coast, in case of a land attack from the Germans crossing from France.

I’ll spare you the history lesson, my original post is here. This time, I had a remote control unit for the flashgun so I could remotely trigger it, so here are some of my highlights from the results in a gallery, you can use left or right keyboard arrows to scroll:

I’ve already posted about a couple of trips that I made this week, now I’m getting round to my third trip; to a derelict nuclear bunker.

The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was actually founded in 1925, but in the 1950s with the threat of nuclear war from Russia, they were tasked with monitoring the fallout from any nuclear attack. A network of bunkers were built across the country, in groups of three or four that could communicate with each other, and a master post that had radio communication. Each bunker was 7-8 miles apart, with more than 1,500 across the country. By 1991, all of the posts had been shut down. Around the country, some still exist, a few are accessible, and even fewer are in good condition. I’m no historian, but plenty of information is available on the history of the group.

I was lucky enough to visit one such post that is still in good condition, with several items from the original inventory still present inside. This post was opened in 1961, and closed in 1991, so it was among the last to remain active after many were closed in the late 1960s. Some photos are below.

entrance to monitoring post
Heavily overgrown entrance to the post
Inside you can see the lower half of the bunk bed and part of the original cupboard. Above the dartboard is one of the ventilation shafts which also the route to some of the measuring equipment on the surface
Inside you can see the lower half of the bunk bed and part of the original cupboard. Above the dartboard is one of the ventilation shafts which also the route to some of the measuring equipment on the surface
Cupboard contents
Cupboard contents including the original toilet paper. Some items are more recent (eg tinned potatoes, best before December 2013)
Doorway to the ladder access and chemical toilet
Ventilation system
I understand that this is part of an experimental ventilation system that was being tested

It didn’t rain, so I went out with my camera today. I actually went out exploring twice; I’ll do a separate post for the other trip which was just a few iPhone snaps.

This Second World War bunker formed part of the Arun-Ouse Stop Line,  as the area was thought to be one of the major routes towards London. This particular pillbox is anti-infantry, based on the small holes overlooking the bridge. Nothing much bigger than a light machine gun would fit through these, and there are pairs of blocks on the floor for the guns’ supports. I think this is a Type 24 pillbox, more information here at the Pillbox Study Group. Despite my research it was quite difficult to find, but once you know it is fairly easy to get to.

Outside Outside
Entrance to PillboxOutside Gun opening Graffiti Graffiti Bottle

We moved house at the beginning of March this year, and most of our things are still packed away in boxes. I kept my digital camera equipment out so I could use it, and obviously, I haven’t. In fact excepting a few iPhone imports to be done, my most recent folder in my Lightroom catalogue is from way back in January.

So, it’s about time this changed…I’m preparing to go on a trip to scout out some abandoned buildings around Horsham. I’ve taken a strong interest in graveyards, churches and derelict buildings recently, partly as a result of a lovely book; Beauty in Decay (see my Goodreads profile, right), and partly because I’ve been reviewing a number of my images with HDR, and my favourite ones have been the old buildings and churchyards. Perhaps I’ll get to publishing my own book one day….

In the mean time, there are a number of World War II pillboxes around Horsham, forming part of the Arun Line, the first inland line of defences against the Germans after the coastal defences. I hope today to be able to find and photograph at least one of them


La Pêche - Re-edited in HDR with Photomatix Pro
La Pêche – Re-edited in HDR with Photomatix Pro

I thought I’d experiment a little with some HDR images. I have again been inspired by browsing, as there are many HDR images on this site that seem to become popular. I looked into some HDR apps and downloaded a trial for Photomatix Pro, then loaded one of my favourite images into it, and here is the result of a little experimentation with the presets available within it.

If you’re not familiar with HDR, it stands for High Dynamic Range, and is a composite image made by combining multiple exposures of the same shot, ideally captured in-camera. Most HDR programs available allow you to load a single image, and use a ‘tonemapping’ option, so that you don’t need multiple exposures. The end result is, traditionally, a perfectly exposed image, as it takes the best exposed areas of each and merges them together, however it creates some pretty surreal effects, that have made it quite a popular tool; just go to Google Image earch and type ‘hdr’ to see what you get.

So I uploaded this image to my profile on the 500px website, and in the time it’s taken me to compose this post, the image has received as many views as the original unedited version that I uploaded to the same site two years ago.

Café Van Gogh, Arles, France in 2007 (left), and Van Gogh's painting 'Café Terrace at Night', 1888.
Café Van Gogh, Arles, France in 2007 (left), and Van Gogh’s painting ‘Café Terrace at Night’, 1888.

I was looking for the original title of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Café Terrace at Night (above right), because I wanted to upload my photo (above left) of the same scene to my profile on the website. I try not to leave the ‘description’ field completely empty when I publish an image there, so I thought I’d check out the name of the café, the original name of the painting, and the English name of the painting. The way I see it, there is something of a distortion in the translation. The French name is Terrasse du Café le Soir,  and by the time it’s in English, Café Terrace at Night, it’s a generic café terrace in the evening.

The actual meaning of its French title is that it’s the terrace of a café called ‘Le Soir‘. At least that’s my interpretation; as I understand it, in French, a named café puts the word ‘Café’ before its name, for example, ‘Café le Baron‘ is a café called ‘The Baron’. So Café le Soir could be interpreted the same way.

Please correct me if I’m completely wrong; I make no claim to actually being any good at French.

So have I discovered, here, that when an English speaker looks at the painting and sees this title, they are being given misinformation? Is it really an incorrect translation that misleads us when we read into the meaning of the painting? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if the title actually matters. It’s a café with seats and tables in the street, and it’s in the evening.

When people look at an image of any kind, they interpret it in their own way. The title of an image can have a very important impact on how we interpret both its content and meaning. At a very simple level, let’s imagine a red square being printed onto canvas and hung in three different art galleries. In each gallery it is given a different title: ‘Sauce’, ‘Blood’ and ‘Claret’. The audience at each gallery will probably perceive the painting in three very different ways.

The source of the apparent difference in translation with the Café Terrace at Night may be that when it was originally put on display, it was titled Café, le soir, or Coffeehouse, in the evening.

So perhaps the confusion is down to the lack of a comma?

So it’s easier to compare, here are the four different variants of the painting’s title:

Original English: Coffeehouse, in the evening
Original French: Café, le soir
Current English: Café Terrace at Night
Current French: Terrasse du Cafe le Soir

I’d be interested to read other peoples’ thoughts …

So here’s my latest ‘word a week photo challenge’ submission. I lived 12 years in Lyme Regis, a lovely town at the heart of the World Heritage Jurassic Coastline in Dorset. Walking to work in the mornings down the street, this was the view. In the summer the bunting was up to make the tourists happy.

Broad Street, Lyme Regis

Here is the Word A Week Photo. Challenge original post. Why not take part yourself?

I’m going to enter a second photo challenge in a short space of time; this one is ‘Beyond’, from The Daily Post. I could have re-entered the same image again for this category, but I thought I’d like to use the one below, taken from the top of the ‘Tour Magne’, a fantastic Roman tower in Nîmes, France.

Les Arenes, Nîmes