Light Painting an Indoor Forest

I just got back from documenting an event on Kauai. It was an amazing “enchanted rainforest” design with beautiful details all around and really great mood lighting design. Well, the lighting was great for the human eye, but to my camera it looked like this:

See those dark objects in the foreground? Yeah, those are the gorgeous tables. Which you can’t see. Therein lies the challenge. The room decor took two days to setup and I only had around 45 minutes to document it all before the party started. No pressure, right?

At first, I experimented with slow shutter. Alas, while that method made the tables appear brighter, it also made the cool backdrop be blown out since the uplights were already bright. I needed a way to get the tables to be brighter, while still keeping the background visible.

Then, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I did two genius lighting decisions that made all the difference.

The first epiphany involved me placing my light in the middle of these giant netted seating areas. The nets were white, so by shooting light into them, it turned them into giant softboxes which cast soft light onto the surrounding tables. The keyword is soft. But I really loved how it brought the focus to this seating area.

The second epiphany involved me light painting the tables. Using the single strobe I brought with me (set at 1/4th power), I walked around and highlighted specific areas of the room I wanted. Unfortunately, I was wearing a white shirt and walked in front of the lens several times, so I was recorded as a ghostly image on some of the images.


I finished documenting the event with a couple minutes to spare before the doors opened to the VIP guests! A big thanks to MC&A, the event company for flying me there.