Category Archives: workshop

Playing With Light

In late October, I got the idea into my head I wanted to play with long exposure photography and light. This is hardly new as a concept but I’d never done it before and wanted to try.

However, I had no interest in light painting as its traditionally thought and instead chose to encapsulate the light and let it do what it wanted randomly.

To that end, I ordered my materials. Firstly, I ordered 100 bright blue LEDs from SparkFun. Next up were 150 3V watch batteries from Cheap Batteries. Last but not least, I sourced 100 1" vending machine balls from Wholesale Vending Products. Total cost with taxes and shipping was about $60.00 USD.

Turns out a 3V watch battery can reliably and safely power an LED. I figured out a good bend to the anode and cathode of the LED and used electrical tape to hold it in place. Then I just placed the battery and LED into a ball and closed it up.

Battery + LED + plastic ball = happy fun time.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

since that initial post I swapped the bends so the anode (positive lead) has the greater bend. A watch battery’s positive side curves around the negative, you see.

We own a Nikon D70s and it’s a quietly solid camera. It has manual focus and you can set the shutter speed so why not? Fortunately my son loves fooling around with anything mildly noisy or bright so he became a willing participant in my experiments. Namely, throwing the balls at me “gently”.

2/3 testing 2.5 second exposure with LED balls.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

Or letting them bounce down the stairs.

3/3 testing 2.5 second exposure LED balls.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

The next night, I played with longer exposure alone leading to some interesting “selfies”.

13 second long exposure selfie. 1/3

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

13 second long exposure selfie. 3/3

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

That’s when I started thinking this might be an interesting activity for kids. My son (8) definitely enjoyed it. When I got my daughter (3) involved, she had a blast. I took the LED balls and the camera with us to Great Wolf Lodge and we used the hotel room for an “epic” shoot.

3 kids and a hugh.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

So I pitched the concept of a workshop for kids to my son’s teacher. It’s a small class so it would be feasible for a test run. At any rate, she loved it. I brought the LEDs, batteries and balls with me. We set up around a table and I showed them a battery. Showed them an LED. Gave them each one and explained a basic circuit to them (Positive to positive, negative to negative, light turns on). Watching them play with the batteries and LEDs was so much fun. Hearing “Mr. Elliott, my light doesn’t work… oh, never mind…” as they switched from one side to the other. As you’ll see below, each kid had their own interpretation of what to do when the shutter opened, but they had a blast. Coaching each other when the kid was up.

And then I did a group shot.

So much fun. For me, too! As a bonus, each kid got to keep their light ball!

I’ve written a proposal for creating an interactive installation out of this concept. Will see who might bite on that idea. If you have an event you’d like to have me set up within, let me know. I think it’d be awesome! In my proposal is even a plan for a small photo screen. Anyway, that’s out there.

In the meantime, I am looking at assembling an air cannon to shoot the balls into the air. Possibly roll them down a hill. Throw them at stuff in general. You know, play with them. THEY’RE BALLS!