Let’s explore simple circuits and long-exposure photography. Build different types of glowing wands with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and use them to make light paintings, capturing images with a digital camera (with a long-exposure setting). Tinker with materials and circuit designs to change the size, shape, and effects of the light sources.
Create simple LED wands and then use them to make light paintings, capturing images with a digital camera (with a long-exposure setting).
Set up a light and a dark space. Ideally, this activity uses two rooms or spaces: 1) a well-lit space for building light wands, and 2) a darkened room for taking photos of the lights in motion.
If you don’t have two separate spaces, you can start by making the wands and then darken the room to take photos.
In the well-lit room, arrange the craft and electronic supplies for building wands.
In the darkened room, set up one or more digital cameras on a tripod or table.
Adjust the camera settings. Adjust the camera settings so that the exposure remains open. The camera should remain steady and not move, so you will need to set the long exposure setting (sometimes labeled “shutter priority” or “bulb”) to longer settings (between 2 and 10 seconds).
Start by turning off the flash. Later, you can get some interesting effects if you turn the flash on again to get a pop of light to capture images of people.
To make a light painting, you leave the camera’s shutter open for a few seconds or more. This is known as long-exposure photography. By leaving the shutter open, you can capture the movement of light over time.
Exposure refers to the amount of light that comes into the camera for a photograph. The exposure is determined by how long the shutter is open, how wide the lens opening (aperture) is, and how much light is in the space.
Choose an LED. Use clear tape to attach the LED to a coin battery. Attach the longer leg of the LED to the positive side of the battery, and the shorter leg to the negative side. The LED should light up. (If the battery is flipped, it won’t light up.) Wrap the battery and legs in tape so that they are secure and none of the metal is exposed.
Add a pipe cleaner as a handle for your light wand. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the battery, and extend it so you have a long wand to hold the light. (Because pipe cleaners have metal inside, make sure that the pipe cleaner only touches the tape and not the metal battery or LED legs.)
Wrap the pipe cleaner firmly so the light doesn’t fly off when you wave it. You can add tape to make it more secure.
You can also use other materials to make wands, such as craft sticks, pencils, or straws. You can also decorate your wand with craft materials.
Now that campers understand the basics of light painting, they can begin to explore more techniques and effects.
Exploring Light Effects
Show the group examples of light paintings that use more advanced effects and techniques, such as drawing silhouettes, using multiple colors, or writing a word.
Here are some additional ideas for light paintings:
We recommend making time to gather everyone into one group so they can reflect together. You can ask the campers to share how they tinkered with their light wands, how they achieved different effects, and how they were influenced by each other’s ideas.
Your safety is your own responsibility, including proper use of equipment and safety gear, and determining whether you have adequate skill and experience. Power tools, electricity, and other resources used for these projects are dangerous, unless used properly and with adequate precautions, including safety gear and adult supervision. Some illustrative photos do not depict safety precautions or equipment, in order to show the project steps more clearly. Use of the instructions and suggestions found in Maker Camp is at your own risk. Maker Media, Inc., disclaims all responsibility for any resulting damage, injury, or expense.