08 Dec Antonio Martinez Tomás
My name is Antonio Martínez Tomás, I’m 35 years old and I was born, and currently still live, in Jumilla, Murcia.
During my life, I have worked as a cabinetmaker and in agriculture amongst other things and I am currently balancing seasonal farming work with activities related to my passion for photography – exhibitions, workshops and courses. I love nature, peace and quiet, walking, photography, art, lights and of course combining all these things together with long exposure in the darkness which is why we are talking today!
How did you first get into Light Painting?
I first got into photography in 2008 and learnt about light painting in about 2010, a little after I’d got into night time photography, and immediately fell in love with the possibilities offered by long exposures. At that point, I did the occasional attempt at light painting with compact cameras even before I really knew what light painting was, but it wasn’t until 2013, when I bought my first SLR, that I really started to take my initial passion for night time photography seriously. A little later, in 2015, I tried a little light painting again, initially with some translucent plastic shapes attached to a torch and by trying to create figures and other effects
with some EL wire I had bought from Ivan Barco. From there, I became addicted to light painting and I started reading loads of tutorials and attending the odd workshop to get a better understanding of what was possible. From there, I continued practicing and reading any tutorials I could get my hands on, enjoying the photos from other artists that inspired me and coming up with more and more ideas – and I’m still learning and creating new ideas to this day.
What’s your favourite thing about light painting? And your least favourite?
What I like best about light painting is the creative possibilities that are available solely with a long exposure and a few lights. Also, the satisfaction you get when you see something you just created and everything is how you wanted it, or even the situations where what you have painted looks nothing like what you expected but something completely different which lets you move in a completely different direction. Of course, the shared moments spent together with other light painters in meet-ups, workshops, conferences etc.
My least favourite is the occasional insane competitiveness, envy and bad feeling between fellow lightpainters.
What has been your biggest photographic challenge and / or the most difficult photo to achieve?
There are a lot of photos which have been a serious challenge – light painting often presents significant difficulties – but in general if a photo takes multiple attempts before you get something you are happy with, you can be pretty sure it is something really tricky. In the case of the photo below, I spent three nights working on it, together with my friend Joaquín and we are still not entirely happy with the results as there are things we would like to improve!
Of the images I have managed to achieve to a level I’m happy with, I think the most difficult have been the crazy photos I’ve done in the style of Tim Gamble, combining a ton of different elements in a single shot. One example would be the photo below, Multicolor Explosion, in which I combined a kaleidoscope effect with a double rotation of strange bokeh effects to give the final result. To do this required a manual multi-exposure using “lens swapping” (changing the lens in the middle of the exposure), two different focal lengths, two tripods, two different apertures, a kaleidoscope, bokeh, a manual 8 way rotation for the pink effect and a 12 way rotation for the orange. The hardest part for me, even though I had two tripods set up perfectly, was getting everything to line up perfectly. I have a few other photos from this session which I like, but the kaleidoscope effect was not perfectly centred despite all my preparations!
What 3 tools do you always have with you?
The tools I always take with me, obviously excluding my camera, tripod and remote reléase are:
A set of flashlights of different power, colour temperatures and colours and with different types of beam, according to the situation. You can do a lot more with a flashlight that just illuminate a scene or something like that.
A Light Painting Paradise round adaptor and accessories to attach to it – with the round adaptor I can attach all sorts of home-made tools as well as the wide range of accessories sold by Light Painting Paradise.
Finally, something which I call “the rod” – a flexible tube that I found a while ago which has a ton of possibilities for creating interesting forms and shapes.
Equally, a black fibre optic brush, some EL wire and a bit of EL tape are rarely missing from my backpack.
I use a second hand Canon 5d Mark II. I prefer working with full frame as they tend to respond better to noise that the APS-C sensors in long exposures and / or high ISOs.
In terms of lenses, I use a Samyang 14mm f2.8 manual for a lot of my photos, a Sigma 70-300mm f4 when I need to work with macros and various old prime lenses with manual apertura control that I picked up cheaply – a Tamron 28mm f2.5, a Zuiko 35mm f2.8 and a Zuiko 50mm f1.8. Working with manual aperture lenses allows me a lot of control within a single exposure. I also have a Yashica 35-70mm which I have modified by reversing the lens to create a really strange bokeh effect.
In terms of tripods and rotation heads, I like to have two tripods with the same type of tripod foot to allow me to combine exposures precisely using manual double exposure where I swap the camera between two different subjects and positions during the exposure. I also use a rotation head a lot for creating all the crazy effects that can be achieved by camera rotation.
Finally, for light painting tools, I’m not going to go into too much detail as I have an absolute ton! I use tools from Light Painting Paradise as well as lot of other things I have created specifically for myself and things I have bought from other vendors.
My favourite items from Light Painting Paradise are the adaptors, the fibre optics (both the brushes and the new “fat” fibre optics), the Plexy Shapes, the round color filters and some of the third party items they sell such as EL wire, EL tape and mini maglites.
This is a really hard question for me, but I think it would be the one called “Geometries”, although in reality it isn’t a single photograph, but 47 photos, each of 30 seconds, stacked to achieve the star trails above the hay barn.
I’d choose this photo to keep simply because it is one of my favourites. It is one the few photos that, every time I look at it again, I still like it just as much or even more than when I first took it two years ago. A lot of the time, what I find with photography is that if I come back to a photo which I loved at the time I took it, I’m less and less pleased with it over time – whether that is because of the theme, because it makes less sense to me, because I see errors that I didn’t spot initially or because it doesn’t mean much to me as a photo.
In this case, this photo also won a prize in the Long Exposure Competition organized by LEX Light Art.
What photographers, lightpainters and / or artists in general have influenced you?
There are a lot of artists who have influenced me, spread across multiple disciplines. If we are talking about art in general, I have always loved the work of Dali and M.C.Escher amongst others.
In terms of more general photography and nature photography I have learned a lot from José Benito Ruíz who has also influenced how I go about photography. For night photography people such as Namor Pastor, Mario Cea and other masters of the art have influenced me with their creative techniques and mastery of illumination.
In light painting, I have been influenced by many artists as well. El Niño de las Luces with his light characters and dark atmospheres, Tim Gamble with his crazy combinations of different elements and of course many more that I could spend all day naming! In summary, my influences are many and varied and across all forms of art.
Where would you most like to do a light painting session?
If we could chose anywhere, then for me, somewhere like Angkor or any of the other temples, complexes or impressive constructions of ancient races such as Machi Pichu, the pre-columbian pyramids, etc.
I’d also love to visit certain natural environments, in particular anything with interesting geological formations, but other sorts of environment too. That said, one thing I always say is that there are always a lot more interesting sites than we think. There are a number of places even quite close to my house that I want to visit and spend a night or even a few nights dedicated to night photography and light painting.
What or who would you like to photograph?
I would love to do sessions of night photography and light painting with my favourite bands for example. It would be amazing to work with them to bring to life an idea and later see that artwork used on their cds and marketing literature. I have always been a big fan of music and the idea of trying to match up the music with appropriate light paintings – I like many different styles of music and I like the idea of trying to match the light painting effects to the “ambience” of the music.
I’ve tried this a few times with friends and local artists, ending up with the odd poster or CD cover, but it is an idea which I’d like to put into practice with some more well-known bands.
What advice would you give to new light painters?
Above all, you need patience and not to give up after your first attempts. In light painting, things almost never come out well on the first attempt and even less often when you are just starting out. In the beginning, this can be a bit frustrating, but if you enjoy it and you keep at it, you’ll get better little by little. Time, study and above all practice will eventually bear fruit.
I’d also tell them that at the start, don’t be afraid to follow in the footsteps of their favourite artists. It is normal to look for influence from people whose work you like most – after a while you can start to forge your own path, which if you put in the effort will diverge more and more from your initial influences until you end up with a style which is entirely personal.
You can see more of Antonio’s work and follow him on social media here: