1. Christmas tree
The tree was created with a toy lightsaber, swung back and forth in increasingly wide movements; we shone a torch through cardboard templates to make fairy lights and other festive shapes. Try to visualise the design from the camera’s position, and bear in mind that the brightness of a light source and how long you leave it on for will determine how bright it appears in the image – so a weak torch left on for five seconds might give the same illumination as a bright LED switched on for a second.
Anything that gets between the light source and the camera will block the light and leave a dark patch in the frame, and you can use this to your advantage to create a silhouette. Simply ask a friend to stand in the scene and then paint behind them during the exposure – they’ll need to stay as still as possible throughout. To create this Rudolph the reindeer shape we made a pair of cardboard antlers, and we finished off the effect by shining a red light in the centre of the face to create the famous red nose.
Attach a light to a length of string and swing it in a circle – a light with an open or dome-shaped head will work best. Try to keep the centre of the orb – your hand – in the same position during the exposure. To create our snowman we made one orb close to the ground, then shortened the string to create a smaller orb for the head. The hat was painted with a green LED, and the snowflakes were made by shining a torch through a cardboard template.
4. Mix with flash
A flash can be used to paint just like any other light source, but its lightning-fast duration means you can freeze a person and add them into the effect. You could fire the flash from the camera’s hotshoe, but why not take it off-camera? Firing the flash from one side will make the light look much more dramatic. Simply set the flash to manual mode, take a couple of test shots to work out the right power output (1/2 power here), then fire it by hand during the long exposure. Once done, paint in the lights and then close the shutter.