Stephen Orlando’s innovative photography combines light painting techniques with his personal interest in movement and nature, culminating in truly hypnotically atmospherical images. We reached out to him to discover more:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living?
-I live and work in Waterloo, Ontario. I have a passion for the outdoors which greatly influences my photography. I’m frequently hauling my photography and lighting equipment on canoe trips. I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering where I researched experimental aerodynamics and aeroacoustics. Essentially I did tests in a wind tunnel where I used high speed cameras and microphones to measure the flow around a wing. I work as an aerodynamicist and part time as a photographer. I see a lot of similarities between the streamlines of fluid flow, which I see on a daily basis and the lines in my photography.
Where did your interest in ‘Motion Exposure’ stem from?
-My father is a photographer so I’ve been exposed to photography from an early age. As I child I was always fascinated by his long exposure photos of the night sky that showed the star trails. I started experimenting with simple light painting photography about 8 years ago when I got my first DSLR camera. It was only in the spring of 2014 that I began the Motion Exposure work where I use LED light strips to reveal the path of familiar objects and human movements.
How would you best describe ‘Motion Exposure’ to someone who’s never come across the term before?
-Picture someone running across an image. Now imagine each joint on the person traces out its path in the image so you can see the position of the knee, ankle, etc at each point in time. I’m able to create this image by attaching led lights to the runner and taking a long exposure photo. Using led lights and a long exposure photo I’m able to tell the story of motion.
Can you explain a bit the photographic process and techniques that are involved in creating this type of art form?
-I’ll use the kayak and canoe photos to answer this. For these photos, the camera’s shutter is open for approximately 10-30 seconds, during which time the camera’s sensor is collecting light. Since the photos are taken in low light conditions, the only things that will show up in the photo – the only things emitting enough light to be picked up by the sensor – are either very bright, or stationary. The trees in the background are dark but stationary, so they get exposed in the photo. The LED lights are very bright so they emit a large amount of light for every point in space and get exposed in the photo. The kayaker and the canoeist do not emit much light and since they’re moving, they’re not in the same spot long enough to be exposed on the camera’s sensor. For the images where the subject is visible, I used a flash to light up the subject. A relative motion between the subject and the camera must exist for the light trails to move through the frame. In the kayak photos the camera is stationary whereas the violin photos the violinist is stationary and the camera is moving.
Is creating the same effects dependent on high-tech equipment or can you do it without investing heavily?
-Good results can be achieved without much high-tech equipment. A camera with full manual mode is needed, a tripod and some cheap LED lights.
When it comes to choosing your subjects how do you go about it? Have you a favorite theme?
-I focus on human movement as well as movements that are easily recognizable. This is why I started off with canoeing and kayaking since the movements of the paddle are familiar to a lot of people. I also really like the repetitive pattern of the paddling. The movement must have some sort of meaning for me to be interested in photographing it. I want the viewer to be imaging themselves doing that movement as they look at my photos.
Have you a favorite photography from your collection?
-I recently took some kayak photos where I had two kayaks in the photo. This is my favourite so far because the photo turned out great and two of my good friends were the paddlers in the photo.
Do you think light photography has become more popular in recent years? Would you go so far as to consider it a trend?
-Light painting photography has definitely become more popular with the advent of cheap DSLR cameras. This technique requires a lot of experimentation, something that was much more difficult with film cameras.
You’re from Canada. Do you think this has had some influence on your art?
-Definitely! Canoes were the main mode of transportation for the Indigenous people of Canada as well as the early European explorers. Travel across dense forested regions via the many lakes and waterways was made possible with the canoe. The Inuit people in the Arctic region of Canada used kayaks extensively for transportation and hunting.
How are you looking to expand on your current success in the near future?
-I would like to start working with notable athletes and musicians in the future. I’m also interested in doing live events where I take photos in the public place and live tweet the photos as I’m taking them.