Biophotonic Human – Capturing a dream on camera
If there’s one genre out there that still holds a lot of visual secrets yet to be uncovered, for me, it has to be light painting. While light painting has been around for a while, it’s only become popular in the last couple of decades since the digital takeover.
When I see something interesting and new from a light painter, I pay attention. These images, from Netherlands-based photographer Hugo Baptista, were certainly something interesting and new to me. So, DIYP spoke with Hugo to find out more.
All aglow with inspiration
The idea of a bioluminescent humanoid character is quite intriguing. Somebody who looks like a person but is made of light and seems to emit light. How would the light they emit fall on the scene around them?
That’s what Hugo explores in this series of images. About the inspiration for the project, Hugo said:
Science is increasingly supporting the idea that humans are more than just the sum of their physical parts. We are not only made up of atoms and molecules, but we are also beings of light. Biophotons, which are weak electromagnetic waves in the optical range of the spectrum, are emitted by all living cells, including those in the human body.
When we dream, we create worlds that feel like they’re exterior to us but are in fact our own deepest thoughts and emotions, depicted through symbols and manifested through biophotonic messages.
The basic concept of this series of light paintings was to illustrate just that. A Human, emanating light through mental intention and through it being able to see the world.
Hugo made his first biophotonic photo in 2014, inspired by the work of James Lawn and Jeremy Jackson. His first was an overexposed man inside a hollow tree trunk. It allowed him to create more abstract settings than he could create in the studio.
He revisited this concept again recently and has evolved into the project that is now known as Biophotonic Human. That first image, just like the rest of the series, was a self-portrait. So, all of the images here are of Hugo by Hugo.
Light Painting to go Lightweight
Hugo tells DIYP that one of the other motivations for this project was a little more practical than artistic. He simply wanted to be able to carry less gear with him when he went out to shoot photos.
During a trip to visit family in Portugal, he packed very light, taking only his camera, a few lenses, a tripod and a flashlight. Hugo tells us that the “simplistic beauty” of the process of creating these images drew him into creating more of them.
It did not come without its challenges, however. And Hugo wasn’t always using the latest and greatest gear to create them, either.
A simple means to an effective end
Several cameras were used to create the images for this project, but Hugo didn’t need anything fancy. His primary camera is the Canon 6D. This is a 20-megapixel DSLR released in 2012. Not exactly bleeding edge tech. But it’s not really needed.
The photo with the blue super moon was taken back in my country of residence, The Netherlands, with my old Canon 7D with sigma 18-250 since I don’t have an equivalent zoom lens for my full frame. I zoomed in on the moon, then capped as fast as possible, zoom out, reframe, and light myself. I purposely waited for some clouds to cover the moon to get a texture similar to fog in the end result.
Hugo’s camera for some images, like the one at the top of this post with the moon, was the Canon 7D. Another fairly old (2009) 17MP Canon DSLR with an APS-C-sized sensor. He used this camera for that shot because he has the Sigma 15-200mm APS-C zoom lens.
He didn’t have a full-frame lens that offered this range. So, he wouldn’t have been able to create the same image. One of the benefits of this type of photography is that it’s typically done with a fairly deep depth of field. Smaller APS-C sensors make getting a greater depth of field easier.
The challenges Hugo faced were not gear-related, though. They were mostly clothing-related. Darker clothing, for example, wasn’t a good thing. He found that wearing white clothes and shoes massively increased their effectiveness in the final result.
Hugo didn’t reveal too many tricks about how exactly the process was done, but the photographs contain some clues. For example, they’re obviously all long exposures with slow shutter speeds – that’s the nature of light painting – and we can see that the process involves a lot of very careful flashlight work.
It’s very easy to accidentally point it somewhere you don’t want it to light up during a long exposure. Hugo’s done extremely well with these to keep the light exactly where it’s needed. Some of the images also make use of laser pointers for fine-line details and a number of other light-painting techniques to produce some very surreal images.
It’s a creative set of images and a very intriguing project overall. Seeing the concept played out visually, particularly those last two images which seemingly combine multiple exposures, is fascinating. It’s also very visually pleasing.
Creating images like these can be challenging enough at the best of times. To be able to do them as self-portraits is pretty nuts.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.