Friday, 17 May 2013

Denis Smith

"My photography has been about pushing, discovering and looking for that spark. I surround myself with people that gel in super creative and exciting ways. The result … we create magic. Let’s connect, learn and create magic together. There will be no fluff, we are simply ‘doers’!" - Denis Smith

Ball of Light Collection
"The Ball of Light is a unique photographic project that has touched the hearts of many around the world. Inspiring photography that brings ‘light painting’ to the public domain. The Ball of Light is created in a single exposure by swinging lights around.
There is no “Photoshop” here at all. It is super challenging, and certainly adds a new dimension to long exposure photography."

The Ball of Light project has evolved from a considerable life change I made about 3 years ago. I moved to Australia from New Zealand to escape an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle of overindulgence, stress and living way above my means financially. With the incredible support of my wife we made the move to Australia.
This was a huge process, both physically and mentally, but the changes luxuriously provided me with a bit of spare time to take on a new hobby. Photography was something I had not tried, but knew it would motivate me to get out and explore, and spend time getting my mind back in order. It certainly did, and I was quickly hooked.
“Light Painting” became a way for me to to push the photographic boundaries. The creation of the Ball of Light project then became a way for me to regularly get out into nature which provided a balance to the rest of my life. I now look back on the past couple of years and realise that the Ball of Light not only helped me make a huge and sustainable change in my own life, but I have inspired others all over the world to do the same. I love that.
The Ball of Light is created in a single exposure by swinging lights around. There is no “Photoshop” here at all. It is super challenging, and certainly adds a new dimension to long exposure photography.
I am so excited about photography now. I really enjoy getting out, learning new things and pushing myself creatively. I often have to pinch myself, as a few years ago I would have laughed if you suggested I would be doing something creative with my life, yet it is a big part of me now.
- Denis Smith (

CJ suggested for me to look at Denis Smith's work because I was really interested in light and night photgraphy:

Although it's a picture of the jetty, it's not just a picture of a jetty. The use of the ball of light is so interesting and intricate! The colours of the sunset and the reflections in the water work so well in this composition. The textures and depth of field are focused and the image is enhanced because of this. The ball of light looks so detailed and stands out as the main light source, even through there is light coming from above and from the sunset.

I really like the composition of this image. The way the balls are lighting up the inside of the cargo container is really interesting. I love the colours and the movement created by the balls of light, altought the image in stil. The rundown cargo/train container and the unkept weeds and plants create a derelict place for random balls of light to pop up out of no where and create an interesting photograph.
This is one of my favourites from the Balls of Light collection. The way the ball of light, light up the dark alley/tunnel is visually effective. The reflections in the water are also visually aesthetic! The graffiti on the walls is shown by the strong light coming off from the balls of light. I can't explain why I love this image so much, I just think it's unqiue, stunning and captivating.
"The Ball of Light project has changed my life and the lives of many around the world. A true story of hope and inspiration…" - Denis Smith


Are the Ball of Light images Photoshopped?
Every Ball of Light image is taken in a single exposure. Not one pixel is added or removed from the image. The only adjustments made are minor saturation and brightness tweaks. There is no blending of images or use of any HDR software.

Why does it look like the photos are taken in the daytime?
Most of the Ball of Light images are taken around the full moon. The moon illuminates the surroundings making them more visible in the photos. The length of exposure also allows more light to enter the camera making it lighter overall. The moon is incredibly bright when it is full. I can walk around easily without torches when the moon is bright. In most of the images you can see star trails, showing it is definitely night!

Why can’t I see you in the photo?
Whilst creating the Ball of Light I am standing “inside” the Ball. I am constantly moving whilst the shutter is open, thus you cannot see me. I also walk into and out of the photo whilst the shutter is open. When you see photos of cars going down the road at night you see the white headlights, and red taillights, but you do not see the car itself. The theory is the same. At no time do I edit myself out of the photos.

What camera do you use?
You can do long exposure light painting with any camera that has bulb mode. Because my exposures are very long, I use a remote to open and lock the shutter open for a lengthy period, up to 10 minutes. All you need is a camera and tripod and you can create these images. Some of my favorite Ball of Light images were taken using a Canon 450d with a kit lens. I now use a Canon 5dmk2.

What light source do you use?
The lights you see in the Ball of Light images are created using LED’s in a variety of colours and sizes.

I would like to try this, can you tell me how to do it?
It is amazing how often I am asked this question. I am simply swinging a light around in a circle whilst rotating. There is no magic, simply experimenting with camera settings and light sources. Start by opening the shutter and wave a torch or light wand around. Once you get used to taking long exposure photos without over exposing the image, then start incorporating different types of light sources. Kids shops are a great place to find all sorts of colours lights. Tie them to string and wave them around. Experimenting was and still is the most fun part of what I do.

How do you get the Ball of Light so round?
Practice, practice and then I practiced a bit more. I assure you when I first started out the Ball of Light was more like an ‘Egg of Light’. I must have tried dozens and dozens of times before the Ball of Light even got close to round. It is incredibly satisfying every time I closed the shutter to see how it came out.

Do you use a mechanical device to make them so round?
No. If you watch the Ball of Light Movie you will see that I create each Ball of Light image completely by hand. I feel this creates a more organic shape. Every Ball of Light is unique, like a finger print.

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