27 Jun Aaron Culmer
I’m based in Portland, Oregon but I spent 2019 traveling with my girlfriend through Central and South America and the West Coast of the United States.
How did you get started in light painting?
I was at Burning Man dancing with two LED fiber optic whips a few years ago.I was entranced with moving the lights to the music. Someone took my picture, using about 3 or 4 second exposures. At the time, I had never heard of light painting, only long exposure photography like light trails from cars on the highway and astrophotography.When I saw those, I was blown away by the “light trails” all over my body! And that something so simple could be so magical.I wanted to keep playing in this realm, so I got a few light tools to add to the light whip and eventually my first DSLR and here we are today.
How important is light painting to you? Is it a hobby, your primary job?
Light painting is a crucial part of my life and my full-time work now.I believe we are all inherently creative beings.For me, light painting is an outlet to create a bridge between my imaginative world and the physical world. Making any kind of art to me is intensely cathartic and healing.Drawing, painting, writing poetry, dancing, or making music brings me into personal contact with the creative spirit, and that has inestimable value for enjoyment and self-discovery.
Tell us about your podcast “Dude, where is my flashlight?” We love it and it is always awesome to talk with artists and share their art. How did it all start?
The podcast “Dude, Where’s my Flashlight??” was an idea I had last summer hiking in Lake Tahoe. We were talking about art and the creative process, when I thought what better way to bring the community together than to create a platform where we can really get to know these amazing artists through personal conversations. I loved seeing other lightpainters’ art on social media, but there is only so much a caption or words can say about a specific image. I wanted more insight into their creative process, the adventure that led to the image, the back story that breathes life into the artwork.
This podcast has been my greatest accomplishment since I’ve started my artistic journey—and that is wholly due to the fact that is a communal project, for the community, and by the community. It is a valuable resource for everyone, from beginning light painters to veterans looking for new ideas or ways to further their own creativity.I am blown away every episode on how much we can learn from these brilliant artists and couldn’t say thank you enough to everyone who has participated in this project!!!
What style of light painting are you known for? What sort of shots do you tend to create?
I’m not sure I really fit into a single category or style of light painting because I have made a concerted effort to learn a lot of different styles and weave them together when I light paint.Having more tools in my light painting tool belt allows me to create more complex images which keeps pushing me to new levels.
I tend to gravitate toward portraits since it gives me the opportunity to create how I see the model through my eyes, and can be empowering to them to be seen in this magical way.
I have also recently started illustrating with my light painting pencils and am excited to see where this takes me. I am naturally drawn to challenging tasks, and creating full scenes in the complete dark over multiple minutes will always be something I am striving to get better at.
Which 3 tools do you always take with you?
This is a difficult question because I use many many different light tools. Since I can only pick three, I am going to go with the tools that offer the most utility so I can maintain my versatility. I always bring my light painting tubes since they offer the biggest and brightest amount of paint into any photo. They are the easiest and most elegant way I have found to create a light painting portrait. I also never leave home without an RGB torch of some kind. The more modes and colors it offers the better! I’ll use it to light the background, foreground, model, change the color of a tube, blade or use it as a brush itself. For my detailed work, I always bring my light painting pencil, as it allows me the freedom to draw and add intricate detail into any image.I want to give a special mention and thank you to Eric Pare, Ivan Barco Angelina, Frank Parhizgar and Jason Page for all their support to this community and the fortitude to follow their visions so we can follow ours.
What has been your biggest photographic challenge or the photo which was hardest for you to acheive?
This is the toughest question and almost impossible for me to answer. In my first months as a light painter I didn’t have many tools so I was forced to create with less. But I found joy in creating new techniques in my tiny bathroom, mostly with the black fiber optic brush. The photo “The First Glimpse of Fawkes” is an image that any time I see it reminds “Anything is Possible.” Having only been light painting for a few months, I was trying a lot of new techniques and it was an affirmation to my process I was on the right path. It makes me think of the phrase, “the eye is the window to the soul” and is a constant reminder to me that art is my window to my own soul.
The biggest challenge so far has been illustrating with my light painting pencils. To literally draw out an entire scene in one single exposure is quite an achievement, something I am continually am working to improve. It takes not only a strong memory to remember where I’ve drawn into the image, but a strong resolve to keep going when I can’t see what I’ve already done up to that point. It feels like a true test of character and nothing pushes me further than creating these illustrations.
Can you tell us any funny stories which have happened whilst you have been light painting?
I wish I could see a blooper reel from all the times I have laughed at myself for doing something embarrassing! One time that stands out was an one of the first times I went out lightpainting with a group of friends. When we get to the location and set up… I realized I didn’t have my camera! Doh! I mean, what photographer shows up without their camera? I felt like an idiot, but they laughed it off and thankfully we managed to make a night of light painting anyway.
Have you got any forthcoming projects you are working on?
One project that I am currently working on is my first illustrated children’s book. Creating impactful content that is educational for children is important to me in my path of creativity.
What advice would you give to new light painters?
First, be brave and lightpaint your world.If you have a unique vision that you want to create, there is a way to light paint it or create something very close! I often see young light painters only creating what they have seen on social media and fall into the “comparison” trap that their art isn’t as good as someone else’s. Make art FOR YOU not anyone else. You will find your own path, which will in turn will reward you with the most fulfillment. In this process you will learn not only what works and what doesn’t, but more importantly what unique style fits you best.
Second, I encourage you to commit. Commitment is the foundation of all achievements. As part of this long process you will fail many times, but the more you fail the more you will learn. Every image you create, whether it turns out the way you intend or not, can teach you something. Raise your own voice, Dig in deep, Hold the line.
Follow Aaron :