Pillars of light weave through wildlife, making for a harsh contrast to serene scenes, yet all at once their playful dance has a delicate charm to them. Giving movement to a once static scene is Martin Kimbell. Creating long exposure beams using LED lights, his work is sculptural against the backdrop of nature.
His motivation to create comes from a single image. In 2006, the works of Stu Jenks inspired him to pursue this form of photography. He recalls feeling a sense of magic and a surreal quality to it all, and began to develop his own style in hopes to recapture that very feeling.
“Light trails moving through woodland in the Vale of Belvoir” – Nikon D200, ISO100, f/8, 25 seconds, AF – S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED at 18mm
“Abstract light patterns move through the trees.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/8, 30 seconds, AF Zoom-NIKKOR 35-70mm f/2.8D at 35mm
“A tower of light with a laser painted base.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/5.6, 30 seconds, AF – S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED at 18mm
“A tower of light captured on a quiet country road in England.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/5.6, 30 seconds, AF – S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED at 18mm
“Light trails reach for the stars.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/8, 30 seconds, AF – S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED at 27mm
“Lights, clouds and stars on Dartmoor National Park.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/2.8, 94 seconds, AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED
“Many of the light painting photographers I look up to, like Dana Maltby or Jeremy Jackson, create much more complex and colourful images, often by using more of a painting-like approach, whereas I tend to use the motion of the lights as they fall, move or spin to dictate the patterns in my work.”
The intrigue of light photography lies in the ‘how’. At first glance, it is almost as if by magic, but in reality Martin creates his sculptures with an array of LED hoops that create the patterns in motion. Along with various lamps and torches to illuminate the areas around the light painting, he shoots with his Nikon SB-80DX and SB-24 Speedlight.
“A small light sculpture created under a disused railway bridge.” – Nikon D3s, ISO200, f/4.5, 135 seconds, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G at 28mm
“A small light form on the Isles of Scilly” – Nikon D3s, ISO125, f/8, 4 seconds, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G at 35mm
“A tower of light on the Isles of Scilly.” – Nikon D3s, ISO125, f/5.6, 96 seconds, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G at 35mm
“A self portrait under the milky way.” – Nikon D3s, ISO12800, f/3.3, 10 seconds, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G at 28mm
“Large light forms on the edge of Dartmoor National Park” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/8, 59 seconds, AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED
“A tower of light in an empty field in the Vale of Belvoir.” – Nikon D200, ISO400, f/5.6, 61 seconds, AF – S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED at 18mm
“A large tower of light in the English countryside.” – Nikon D3s, ISO200, f/6.3, 20 seconds, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G at 28mm
“Usually I would start with location scouting, either during the day or in the evening, while there is still some light. I then wait until I have found the scene or space I want to work in before I plan the actual light patterns, trying to think of the different ways I can use or transform the space. Often I spend time testing out the different ways I can illuminate the scene before beginning to test out different ideas with my light tools.”
The skill involved in creating such technical images comes from experimentation. Martin strongly believes that anyone who hasn’t tried their hand at long exposure and lights should test it out if not only to widen their skill-set. The process may be tedious to some, but the time spent constructing each image has become hugely beneficial to Martin.
“I also feel that the way light painting photography uses a mix of ambient, flash and constant light sources, both moving and stationary, can help those who are new to photography gain a better understanding of exposure, and how to create a balance between the different light sources. But most importantly it is a very fun and enjoyable style of photography to experiment with.”
Growing up and being exposed to photography from a young age set the course for Martin’s passion. At the age of 16, he owned his own Nikon FE2 and began taking photography courses at school.
Fascinated by star trails, he began experimenting with different off camera flash techniques. With a little inspiration from the works of Stu Jenks, Martin developed his own body of work that exudes the same kind of magical energy he once felt.
© Martin Kimbell