HOW TO: Indoor Tornado

Earlier this week we had heavy rain storms come through the area. It was raining so hard and for so long, even I didn’t venture outside with the camera. No sense risking damage to expensive equipment when photography can be done inside under more favorable conditions.

It was so gloomy outside from the heavy cloud cover, darkening a room in the house for my photography experiment was pretty easy. After setting everything up, I closed the curtains and the door to the studio and got started.

Here’s how I produced this photo. I mounted the camera on the tripod and pre-focused on an area about five to seven feet away from the lens by taking a picture of myself. I then turned off the auto focus and set camera to manual focus. Then I set the shutter at 15 seconds, and the aperture was set at f8. I figured this was as good a place to start as any. I then set the self timer for a five second delay to give me time to get in position.

I turned off the lights, turned on the light source, tripped the shutter, moved in front of the camera, and started twirling my the light before the shutter opened. I continued to swing the lights around until I heard the shutter close, because the camera’s sensor will pick up any movement of the light.

What did I use for a light source you ask? It’s simple and inexpensive. Under six dollars, actually. I bought some battery operated LED finger rings resembling oversized jewels at a party supply store for two dollars each. I found a piece of string about six feet long and tied on some washers for added weight to one end of the string, and slid two rings down the string to rest on the washers.

Creating patterns is the fun part. Swing the light horizontally in a tight pattern in the beginning and gradually let the string slip through your fingers to allow the circles to get bigger to make a cone shape. Or swing the string vertically or any which way to create wild patterns of light. Experiment with different shutter times to see how the light changes.

I found through my many attempts at this, just how sensitive the camera is. Keeping the light pattern as consistent as possible is the hard part. It took many tries before I was able to keep from bumping the light into my legs or the desk or….some other obstacle. After a while, the light patterns stayed in a relatively circular pattern. But it took some practice.

Now that the weather has changed for the better, I’ll be heading back outside to do some more experiments using really long exposures and try to capture some ambient night light along with my artificial light. Woo-hoo!

  1. October 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Very creative and imaginative, David. 🙂

    • October 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      The process is a lot of fun and the results are always different. I even spelled my name with a flashlight….it’s very strange to write backwards in the dark. It took many many tries before I got one that resembles my name. More practice is needed. So, the next time it monsoons here….

  2. October 5, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Creative thing lately aren’t you? Wonder what you will come up with if the winter is cold and you are stuck inside 😉

  3. October 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah I guess I have been huh…I do have some plans for the winter snowstorms…night photography and flashlights! I’ve done it before but I have some new techniques to try!

  4. October 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Excellent tutorial, David! Thanks for sharing the how to, I will try it out myself 🙂

    • October 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks Gracie, it’s tons of fun! Wait till you start thinking about light patterns and sources…I’ve got some neat ideas that I think will create some way cool light paintings. I’m off to the Christmas/craft store for some lights. If this works, it will be the coolest! Hint:magic wand/light bar in the woods or park.

  5. October 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Fascinating and creative, David.

    • October 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Thanks Meanderer, it’s so much fun playing with long exposures. We used to go out at night and set up the camera/tripod and photograph the car headlights and taillights on the highway. It’s way to rural to do that around here, but I think it’s time for a “photo excursion.”

  6. October 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    What a magical photograph and thank you so much for the delightful and clear explanation. I remember my kid brother using a long exposure to take car lights at night as they sped around the corner near our home many, many years ago. This reminds me of that time so thanks again! 🙂

  7. October 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Glad you enjoyed my little experiment and that it brought back some good memories!

  8. October 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Pretty cool! Very creative.

    • October 9, 2012 at 9:01 am

      It’s a lot of fun…especially when you start seeing ALL kinds of light sources in the everything is a dollar stores, party stores, and Christmas shops!

  9. October 7, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    That is truly thinking outside the box! Great result!

    • October 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Jennifer, look out when I put on the old thinkin’ cap!

  10. Jo Woolf
    October 8, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Very creative, and I love the effect!

    • October 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Thanks Jo, I have more neat stuff planned for the near future!

  11. October 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    WOW! Thank you dear David, fascinated me what you did. Love, nia

    • October 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Glad you enjoyed this Nia, it’s fun to play!

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