Grandpa’s Fishing Gear – The Making Of…

  • June 16, 2013

I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain how I took my most recent shot.  First of all, this was a special photo for me because it is my grandpa’s old fishing gear.  He passed away many years ago and I really miss him.  He was one of those guys who was the “real deal.”  He said what he meant and he meant what he said.  He was the spiritual leader of the house and the entire family looked up to him for it.  I took this shot yesterday so I could post it today for Father’s Day.  

Ok, so first I just had to set the scene.  I used two old wooden drawers to lay things out.  One was laid flat and the other was stacked behind to give a backdrop.  I thought the wood grain would look nice with the fishing gear.  Below is my normal shot taken straight from the camera.  Not very exciting is it?


So now let me explain what “light painting” is.  Here are the steps…

  1. Set your camera on a tripod and frame the shot the way you want it.  
  2. Set your focus point and then switch the camera to “manual” focus because it is about to be dark and you camera won’t be able to focus.  Did I just use the word “focus” 3 times in one sentence?!
  3. Put your camera in “Manual” mode.  Here are the settings I used:
    • ISO: 100
    • Aperture: f10
    • Shutter speed: 30 seconds
  4. Now it’s time to turn off the lights!  You need to have total darkness for best results. I did this in my garage at night.
  5. Now press the shutter button to begin your 30 second exposure.
  6. Time to start light painting! Use a flashlight during your 30 seconds to shine on certain parts of the scene.  This may take several attempts to get it right.

Now for some tips:

  • LED flashlights work great, but you may want to wrap something around the end of the light to narrow the beam and to shield the light from the camera a bit.  I used gaffer’s tape on mine and had it hang over the front of the flashlight by about 1 inch.  In the past I used black construction paper and used scotch tape to hold it in place.  
  • I set my white balance to “flash” mode which I figured would match the LED coloring fairly well.  I ended up warming it up a lot more in post processing however.
  • It is ok if your hand and flashlight get between the camera and scene.  With a 30 second exposure, you probably won’t see it at all (as long as you follow the first tip)
  • I find it is most interesting if you wave the flashlight around the scene at a low angle or one that allows for some shadows.
  • You normally don’t want to light the entire scene.  So, focus your beam a bit for interest.

I ended up with two decent shots but I wasn’t thrilled with either one.  So, I took the two photos below and blended them in Photoshop.  For example, shot #1 didn’t have light on the rod in the top left of the frame.  It also didn’t have much on the cork with fish hooks.  Shot #2 had too much light on the spinners and the cork.  So, a little masking magic was required in Photoshop to blend them together.



After blending the two shots in Photoshop, I then spent some time with sharpening, clarity, contrast, color correction, etc to add extra pizzazz to the photo.  The shot below is what I ended up with.  Pretty big difference, huh?


Finally, it was time to slap on my normal border and logo to share on Facebook.  Voila!  This process takes a lot of planning, time, and several attempts to get what you’re looking for.  Compare this with the first photo though and I think you’ll agree that it is worth the hassle!  Best of all for me is that this photo has now immortalized the scene of some of my cherished memories of my grandfather!

NOTE: I uploaded this last file in a very hi-res format.  Click the pic to blow it up and then the “expand” button in the top right to see all the detail in the shot.  

Fishing Gear

If you need a shot like this for some of your old memorabilia, let me know!

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