BTS: How A Deserted Cave Was Light-Painted As A Magical Realm

light painting tutorial

The above image is a long exposure shot as JPG by Dennis Calvert and is straight from the camera. Here’s a walkthrough of how it was made.

light painting tutorial

Three different lights were used to light up the environment. Two flashlights and a canon speedlite. Above are the two flashlights. You can see how the Maglite is a lot warmer than the Coast HP21. Below shows how the three lights were layered to light up the scene.

The first light was a wirelessly triggered speedlite behind Josh and facing out toward the camera.


The second light was a Coast HP21. This one was held by Josh and it was pointed at the wall behind him. You can see his hand right hand is a little blurry from slightly moving the flashlight during the long exposure.


A Maglight was used to light up the exterior. I thought its warmer tone looked better on the stone. The blue dots were created with battery powered string lights that I have modified by splicing a momentary switch into the wire. I shot this image with a 14mm lens which allowed me to get very close to the lens and turn the string lights on and off a few times to give the illusion of dots of light floating in the air.

light painting tutorial
Canon 5DmkIII | Exposure 199 | ISO Speed 1250 | f/5.6 | 14mm

Video showing the battery powered string lights:

Here’s some video from the trip. Most of it was shot with GoPro 3 Black Edition I picked up a while back. There’s a timelapse about a minute in that shows most of the light painting session. The two clips of the bugs were from a 5DmkIII and the timelapse was shot on a 7D.

About The Author

Dennis Calvert is a photographer and a light painting artist based in Cullman, Alabama. All of Dennis’s photography is straight out of the camera with no digital manipulation whatsoever. The effects are all created in camera during the exposure. To find out more, check out, Dennis’s Facebook or Flickr. This post was originally published here.

  • TrickyDesign

    This is very familiar to me, just last month I was doing exactly the same thing at my own local caves.

    Although I was using glowsticks, my battery powered fairylights only arrived in the post the next day.

    I would think it’s good to mention some health and safety stuff. Playing around in pitch black caves is never safe at the best of times. The ones I was using were wet and very slippery.

    • Dennis Calvert

      Safety: Bring a minimum of two flash lights per person. Never go alone. Use common sense. Never “play around” in a cave. It’s serious stuff. Snacks and water are advised.

  • budhy

    fantastic technic !

  • darelmiler

    Dennis Calvert, Your image like one person stay on star world, I
    really like your long exposure shot image and thank you for sharing
    lighting image making method, your given technique through I also
    try to make my magical painted exposure image.