Monday, April 5, 2010

Light Noir

By Dave Willis, Photography By Britton Black Published in Shooting
Light Noir
I try to make it seem like my subjects are emitting the light.

Though it may seem that Britton Black’s exciting portfolio of finely crafted, atmospheric images are the result of meticulous postprocessing, his unique “film-noir” style is performed almost entirely in the real world. Black employs a variety of lights and long exposures in a process called “light painting.” He often spends up to half an hour slowly illuminating a single shot with one long exposure. Black has spent many years honing his craft through trial and error, so he has learned over time the importance of perfecting an exposure long before it ends up on a computer. It’s a work ethic and an attention to detail that have given him a distinctive look and uncommon imagery.


Black is highly selective with his lighting during the exposure. He says that on average there are 10 separate light sources for lighting up key parts of an image, and one of the hardest parts of shooting is hiding all of the lights, power packs and cables from the camera. Most of the actual light painting is done by hand with, surprisingly, a common handheld rechargeable spotlight, the Brinkmann Q-Beam Max Million III. To soften the hard light from the spotlight, he adds hand-cut Plexiglas® that has been covered with privacy window film over the light.

He also has an array of tools to shape his light as needed. Snoots, grids, flags and cinefoil all provide Black with distinctive light characteristics that help him to paint in his scenes. For tight areas that are hard for him to get into, he adds 12-inch Rololights with incandescent tubes.

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