Light painting in the junkyard with Klaus-Peter Statz

Klaus-Peter Statz is a photographer based in New York City who has attended a few of my night photography and light painting workshops. I was impressed with the images that he made at last month's junkyard shoot. Six of his light painted night photos are featured below, along with some notes on the lighting techniques.

Joe: The Williams bus photo does a really nice job of isolating the subject. Can you talk about how you lit this image.

Klaus-Peter: Most of the bus was inside a garage in total darkness, just a small part of the front was lit by moonlight. I wanted to keep the "Midnight Express" feeling and lit the driver side of the interior with a flashlight, reaching in from the outside through a small window. The headlights were lit with a different flashlight, using a snoot. Finally, I used the snoot with a blue colored flashlight to light up the route sign. The cab light illumination was added in post processing.

Joe: This bus image has a wild blur. Did you zoom the lens or bump the tripod? It's a cool effect.

Klaus-Peter: This image is a combination of two frames, a regular long exposure plus a high ISO test shot during which I had accidentally bumped against the tripod. I first wanted to delete the blurry shot, but then played around with it in Photoshop, adding some more blur and came up with this result.

Joe: I like the pastel pinks and yellows of the bus against the blues and greens of the sky/tree. What was your lighting strategy?

Klaus-Peter: This bus was sitting right underneath a strong floodlight that gave it a yellow-greenish cast. I did some light painting on the interior with orange and red flashlights, but was not able to overcome the effect the floodlight had on the outside. I therefore corrected the white balance in post processing to create the pastel colors.

Joe: Great composition, and purple/green is a nice color combo. How did you light this one?

Klaus-Peter: The purple effect was already in the sky, I just emphasized it a bit in post. In order to add the green color I used a green flashlight from behind the bus to lighten up the interior, and added a pop of green to the outside from approx. 45 degrees camera left.

Joe: How did you light this image?

Klaus-Peter: It took me several attempts to get this image lit correctly. The final result is a composite of three images, one using a snooted white flashlight on the headlights, a second one with two pops of a strobe, with and without an orange gel inside the car, and finally the sign that was lit from the far left side with a flashlight. Thanks for helping to direct the lighting from the camera perspective - some shots are easier to achieve with a partner.

Joe: Was the bat-shaped shadow on the ground what attracted you to this composition?

Klaus-Peter: Exactly, the moonlight-created Batmobile reminded me of a similar shot I had done three years ago in the Mojave Desert with a '57 Chevy. It was fun to shoot.

I asked Klaus-Peter if he had a version of the previous image without light painting for the sake of comparison. Shooting one frame without lighting is a great way to see exactly what your light painting is adding to the image.

I'd like to thank Klaus-Peter Statz for sharing his images and light painting strategies. You can see more of Klaus-Peter's work on his website.