If you would prefer to watch a video then watch it above instead of reading!
I was originally inspired to do this because when I had down it with a drone I had a troll complain that the images weren’t clear enough. In my response to this I surmised a way with the help of Dan Roberts to be able to hang my camera from the ceiling and get clear images.
In order to to get to get surreal like images that look like your camera is hanging in the air without a drone and get a clean image this is how you do it! Now full disclosure I have the blessing of being in a space with 14ft ceilings that allow me to get this much room with a 24mm lens. However I have successfully also done this with a couple of c-Stands and a long piece of somewhat thin wood as well. Forgive me for not remembering the measurements it’s been over a year. I used this video as a basis for the idea with the c-stands.
If you are going to go the c-stand route and want to capture people then I recommend using a 12mm or 14mm lens as you won’t be able to get 14ft high with c-stands. Of course the base of the c-stands will show up so you’ll need to be cautious of those when light painting and edit them out later. You can use a simple wood to screw attachment or a Platypod for this setup.
Back to 14ft up, one of the most important pieces to this setup is a Platypod. They run around $100 dollars and have been invaluable to me. There is a little screw portion at the top of the playtpod (circled in red) that you will flip onto the back and then attach your camera to. Here are pictures to help understand that process
Once you have the platypod attached it’s more than likely not going to be a tight fit, and that’s ok. As you’ll see in the below picture I have a couple of small nails that I’ve hammered into wood as well as some bike hooks. I make sure to have a strap or some other kind of solid material to latch onto the camera and hang onto the bike hooks for safety. Since the camera in order to be straight down hangs on the ends of the nails I want to be sure that it won’t fall and hurt my model or the camera. As always use proper ladder safety when climbing this high and up.
Now the second important piece to this is how I’m going to trigger the camera while it’s 14ft above me. Thankfully, most major camera companies have apps that allow you to connect your phone to your camera and let it become the wireless trigger. I personally use a Sony and use their Imaging Edge Mobile app. You’ll open the app to scan the QR code with your phone on your cameras LCD screen. To get there you’ll go to Network – Control with Smartphone – Connection. I recommend that you connect to your cameras wi-fi if it doesn’t already and let it stay connected. Once you have it connected then I suggest hanging the camera from the ceiling and using the phone as a reference to then focus your model on the correct plane. When connected with your phone you will be able to change your shutter speed, F-stop, and ISO as well as being able to see the picture you’ve taken once you end your exposure.
Once you’re done focusing you’re good to go! Next I’ll be going over the specific tools I used to create the images in the video. For all images I use a flashlight as my light source and the Light Painting Brushes Portrait Light to light the people.
For this first image I used a simple USB LED strip that I bought from the store that people normally use for computers or TV’s and a small USB battery. Then we determined the center area of the room where I wanted to make the light dress/vortex. I had Sammy start the exposure for me while I waited to plug in the battery. When the exposure started I turned the lights on walked around the room holding the strip up as much as I could, then turned it off with a remote. Then Sammy found me in the center in the dark and I took the portrait light and lit her. Here is a reenactment in GIF form.
These are of course only some examples of ideas that you can do using a top down system and gives us a new perspective when creating with light painting. I’m not the first to do this concept but there are not many light painters out there using a top down system, and wanted to share my process. Below are a couple more images that I’ve created using this system. Thanks for reading!