Tourism Archives - Jim Dugan

New York Weekend

Ghost Ship: How to paint with light

This picture is the wallpaper on my computer screen and almost everyone who sees it wants to know how it was made.

The word photography means, literally, drawing with light. But “painting with light” is a technique to add a light source during a long exposure. Here’s an example:


This is a picture made aboard the schooner Mary Day. We were at anchor in Blue Hill Bay, had just come back from the lobster bake on an island, and everyone was just chilling on deck.

I set up my camera on a tripod, composed carefully, then set the aperture to (I think) about f/16. Then I locked the shutter open.

So the shutter is locked open for several minutes, I’m guessing about five to seven. If I did nothing, I’d get almost no exposure except for the kerosene lanterns and a little of the sunset. It was actually a bit after sunset, so the horizon was pretty dark.

But what I did was: I took out my LED headlamp and turned it on. I shined it on the sail and boom, moving it around to illuminate it more or less evenly. Then I hopped down on the deck and walked around to the people, stopping at each and telling them to stand still while I “painted” them with light. I’d shine the light on their faces, making sure not to let the camera see the light source.

The two men on the left were the first to get painted. As soon as I had finished with them, they moved away, so their legs don’t show up. If they had stayed, they would have blocked a lot of the light of the kerosene lantern on the deck. The third person from the left moved before I could paint him, so mostly, he shows up as just a shadow.

You can see the shadow of a tripod leg on the box with the star on it. I’m not sure what light was casting that shadow.

There’s very little Photoshop work done after the fact, though I did clean up a few light streaks where the light source turned toward the camera.

My one regret is that I didn’t take the cover off the boat’s steering wheel. It’s a pretty wheel, varnished and bright. Next year.

Walking in the Street

OK, maybe I was a bit, um, brutish. But…

I was driving north on Rockland Main St. Friday when a nicely dressed pedestrian couple crossed the street in mid-block, forcing me and others to stop and wait for them to cross.

“Please use the crosswalk next time,” I yelled out the window. Yes, I said “please” but yes, my tone was a bit demanding and maybe an epithet was implied.

But an SUV with New York plates pulled up next to me and the guy yelled something like, “Oh, so you wanted to be on that guy’s bumper so much quicker?” (pointing to the van in front of me).

As if I was the jerk here.

OK, he has a point. What’s my hurry? And why be a jerk, which I have to admit, maybe I was.

But the real point regarding jaywalking in Maine for me is:

  • We have a law that cars must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. It’s mostly respected and sometimes even enforced.
  • The crosswalks are clearly marked and plentiful.
  • If everyone crosses as the designated crosswalks, traffic flows smoothly and nobody gets mad.
  • I don’t come to your state and walk in the street. Please reciprocate.

But I also see the other point: yelling at clueless tourists is also not entirely nice and should be avoided.