Jesse Rockwell on Light Painting Like a Ninja

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All images by Jesse Rockwell. Used with permission.

“Wear black and move fast! Imagine you are a Ninja!” says photographer Jesse Rockwell when we asked him about how a person can prevent themselves from appearing in a long exposure when light painting.

Jesse is a California based photographer that has lived most of his life in Asia–being raised as a small kid in Kathmandu, Nepal, and later living in Bangkok, Thailand. To pay the bills, Jesse shoots food and real estate photography. But every photographer has their own personal passion and for him that’s timelapse, long exposure and travel photography. His travel work has been featured on the BBC, IFLScience, and CNN among others.

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While living in Bangkok for a number of years, he was inspired to get deeper into photography when he realized that his camera phone wasn’t doing it for him. He bought a Nikon D3100 and dove right into photo walking around cities.

“I bought a powerful laser pen while in Bangkok, and began doing simple ‘writing on the wall’ long exposure images.” says Jesse about how he got into light painting. The concept of long exposure photography, and it’s ability to reveal unseen movement and patterns fascinated me. I did a lot of photography involving cars and traffic patterns, which helped me to learn proper exposure, and what type of ambient lighting was effective to hold a background, while properly exposing the moving lights.” When he moved back to California, he did more research into light painting and started working with LED strips.

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Jesse makes it a habit of waiting for the full moon to shoot because of all the extra ambient light that he gets. During the rest of the time, he scouts for locations and gets inspired by them. When he finally gets to shooting, he experiments and plays around.

“It has taken many hours to learn how to achieve the controlled effects in my newer photos.” states Jesse. “The majority of my old photos are sort of chaotic, and while beautiful, they often detract from the scene itself. I am still learning to balance the light painting with the location where I am shooting.”

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