How I photographed a Kawasaki ZX-12R with light painting and compositing

Mar 3, 2018

Paul Monaghan

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How I photographed a Kawasaki ZX-12R with light painting and compositing

Mar 3, 2018

Paul Monaghan

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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It’s always fun having the opportunity to create new images, especially when the subject is something new. It comes with its own unique challenges. Like this lovely Kawasaki motorbike that we took to a little carpark near the town of Kilsyth in Scotland overlooking the countryside and surrounding towns.

Wide angle shot with the Sigma dp0 (14mm), Natural light.

I then grabbed my trusty Sigma sdQ-H with 50-100 f1.8 Art lens. The fast aperture and long focal length gives a nice subject isolation and scene compression while the little Manfrotto Pixi lets us keep the camera low to the ground.

I wanted to create an image where the bike stood proudly against a darker out of focus background so I set the aperture to f1.8, shutter to 1/2000, iso100 which gave me this.

Just about perfect for what I wanted but now I needed to light the bike, Luckily the Cactus v6ii with XTTL firmware allows me to shoot in HSS/Powersync mode allowing me to overcome the cameras 1/180 sync limit, I used that along with the Pixapro ad600 inside a 120cm Softbox with the help of my lighting assistant Barry Grant.

As you can see lighting reflective curvy objects requires very large modifiers to catch all the angles and create nice gradient, something we didn’t have so instead I set the Sigma sdQ-H to interval timer every 3 seconds to help avoid camera movement while Barry walked around the bike with the light to emulate a much larger light source.

For this shot Barry had walked behind and in front of the bike as well as placing the light directly overhead and even close to the ground to get some light on hard to reach parts then I went ahead and blended them in post as this Gif demonstrates.

To blend the images in Photoshop you open them up as layers by going to “File, Scripts, Load files into stack” and set the Layer blend mode to “lighten” then use masks to draw in the parts you want to keep.

One of the benefits of doing it this way is that you can adjust the brightness of each shot afterwards to suit you needs and remove ones that don’t work… you could even go back and light the bike differently in post by using different frames.

I ended up using around 18 of the 40+ frames taken on the day, carefully blending them to create this final image.

About the Author

Paul Monaghan is a portrait photographer based just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. You follow his work on Instagram and Facebook.

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4 responses to “How I photographed a Kawasaki ZX-12R with light painting and compositing”

  1. Dennis Ryu Bär Avatar
    Dennis Ryu Bär

    Could have been done much easier and much faster in a single long exposure… and also without those strange half shadows appearing from blending.

    1. Paul Monaghan Avatar
      Paul Monaghan

      Hi Dennis Ryu Bär I have done long exposure light painting before but not something you can do when the ambiemt light requires 1/2000 unless stacking ND filters or waiting till it’s dark :).

      This way also has the benifit of adjusting the lighting in post.

      Thanks for taking the time to give some input, this was really just to show another way of doing something in the hopes to help someone. :)

    2. Dennis Ryu Bär Avatar
      Dennis Ryu Bär

      That is true about the ambient light. But it looks like the shots were done in the blue hour. So with a little higher aperture you could already get a few minutes, using an ND filter even more.
      Just wanted to point out that many people resort to post processing and more and more concentrate on that even if an easier and much faster solution would be doing it in the exposure ;)

      1. Paul Monaghan Avatar
        Paul Monaghan

        I was at 1/2000 f1.8 to underexspose the sky, so at f16 I would be around 1/25 and with a 6-7stop ND around 4sec.

        This would also make the background be in focus, require much higher output on the strobe (possibly.. their is no HSS needed so it could even out) which would make it hard to pull this off in one shot using the current ambient light.

        It could have been planned to shoot later when the light was lower to avoid the use of nds and such but we don’t always have that luxury and it rained pretty hard 10mins after this shoot.

        Knowing we have options is always a good thing :)