Category Archives: cool

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!


Last year I was invited to make visuals for an old acquaintance, Michael Morton, who is a musician. Displacer is his stage name. Last year, I hemmed and hawed about helping and just couldn’t commit. As a freelancer (or contractor depending on your preference) it’s not a good idea to accept work (free or not) and not do it. It reflects poorly on you.

Night Gallery Cover

He was releasing his latest album, titled Night Gallery and re-contacted me about doing visuals for his performance. This time, I said absolutely and just put my head down and did it.

Displacer and I had our first show on August 11th and were both really pleased with the result!

I worked in Processing, using the Minim FFT library, Daniel Shiffman‘s Wander and Flocking classes and an OSC protocol for Processing, oscP5. Finally, the controller was an iPad running TouchOSC with a simple layout made to give me access to opacity and saving a print, etc.

Mike has a show in Montréal in November I’d love to be at. Commence “Operation: Wear Wife Down”.

In an effort to keep track of what I was doing and Mike abreast of my progress, I made several screencaps of the project.

Flash on the Beach 2010

This was my second year speaking at Flash on the Beach. For six years, John Davey has consistently put on a great conference. His three days of speakers, pitches, networking and inspiration are a huge draw and I spend them in a heady mix of nerves and excitement.

The speakers
I’ve been told point blank that I’m fortunate to be a speaker. So true. I am truly lucky that organizers trust my mouth to fill seats. I get a ringside seat to the genius that is the other speakers. In no way can I be compared to the likes of Grant Skinner, Robert Hodgin or Stefan Sagmeister. I look up to these guys. The fact that I get a microphone and pace on stage too means nothing compared to having a quiet chat with some of my oldest (read: longest) heros. Some of whom I also count as close friends.

Something that is missing from the normal conference experience that I think John Davey has well grasped is the speakers are people; they typically don’t like talking about themselves and have the same insecurities as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, speakers love talking about their work. Because they love their work. A speaker is a speaker because they are inspired by what they do. Their inspiration is our inspiration when they speak. Seeing Mario Klingemann get excited about a discovery is like watching a kid open a present on Christmas morning. It’s that kind of excitement that drives audience members to go out and “TRY”. But I digress. Get a speaker one on one with an attendee and that’s why you go to Flash on the Beach. At least in my experience. Nothing is better to me than speaking directly with attendees.

Flash on the beach is the one conference where you will see speakers lining the first few rows in session. We are as turned on by what other speakers say as the average conference-goer. It’s a testament to the quality of speakers at Flash on the Beach, myself notwithstanding. I see more sessions at Flash on the Beach than at any other conference and apologize to the speakers who’s session I might miss; I’m looking at you, Seb Lee-Delisle, Hoss Gifford, Brendan Dawes and Ralph Hauwert

My name-dropping is officially exhausted.

My Session
My official session was titled The Art of [Mis]Communication. However, after presenting at Flashbelt in June, I fine-tuned it and renamed it to Things I Learned in Preschool. I have been freelancing for a year and have unofficially become the child-shuttle due to proximity to preschool and kindergarten. In the last year, I have observed behaviour lessons and punishment that we as adults could truly learn from. So I made an effort to dial back the corp speak and dial up the kid speak. Hopefully those that attended my session understood what I hoping to get at.

Secondly, I added in a half-session on my side project; Movies in Haiku. I have been engrossed in this little project for over six months and just had to co-opt my session with it. I apologize if anyone thought I should not have. In my defence, I gave away an entire set of prints, cleverly hidden under the seats by my wife, Elizabeth. Seeing a roomful of people bend over to look under their seat then some come up triumphantly with a print just made me smile. I felt like Willy Wonka. A little. Without the big hat. The prints are for sale on my Etsy shop.

Thank you so much to John, his family, his volunteers and staff for making my stay in Brighton and my Flash on the Beach experience one to remember!

Oh Google Maps, I Love You.

Today my friend Alex sent me a ping via messenger with a crazy link to google maps. In it was a street image. I thought it was a joke. But no. Apparently, google now has street views in select cities.

For instance, the New Yorker at 8th and W 34th. That is so friggin cool.

A street view of The Embarcadero and Townsend St. in San Fran.