hughqelliott

Pride Flag Light Bar Long Exposure Photography, LMC (Light Motion Capture)

The story behind the Pride light bar used in long exposure photography to illustrate that Pride is everywhere and every day.

TLDR; Pride is everywhere and every day.

Inspiration from 2015

I am a technologist with a longstanding long exposure photography project started in 2015; LMC aka Light Motion Capture. The core concept was to have a subject perform an action related to their interest and use long exposure to show how they moved through a space.

I’ve done a number of location shoots and always loved the process of capturing motion through long exposure. I’ve published a number of posts regarding these – check them out: Tae Kwon Do, Bollywood, Handlebar, I even shot in an axe-throwing space and managed to actually sell a few through bigcartel!

I was invited to run a small activation at the launch party for Maker Festival 2015 in Toronto where I used LED balls to allow participants to create their own LMC. I borrowed a photo printer from the kind folks at Art & Science and people walked away with a print of their creation! I also ran a LMC table during the festival and sold light ball kits while taking more LMC photos with participants.

As part of preparing for having my LMC table at MakerFaire Ottawa 2015, I built a light bar and although the results were nice, I was never happy with the build itself. It was clunky and fragile.

Enter Pride 2021

In preparation for Pride month, Thinkingbox gave some employees in the LGBTQ+ community disposable cameras and asked them to capture their #prideinsideandout. During a chance discussion midway through June. My co-worker, Alyssa Campbell, mentioned the camera series.

I really perked up and said “I actually have this dormant project that would lend itself really well to Pride.” So I set about re-designing the light bar. I was six years more experienced in CAD, electronics, and design. This turned out to be a great one-off. I scavenged a strip of NeoPixels, added a simple switch, and I could turn the Pride flag colors on and off. Then I modelled a handle to accommodate a length of 1/4″ round, taped the strip to it and voilà! I had a light bar!

To get an understanding of the various factors involved with long exposure I had to start testing. I went out in the evening to gauge how the photos would turn out. Changing f-stops, ISO, how long to hold the shutter open, how fast to move the bar. I’m gifted with a son who hops up when his dad says “hey, can you come help me out for a bit?”

And I shared the results on Instagram (feel free to follow if you like the work) The reaction was solidly positive so I did some more tests. Again, my son accompanied me. As he stood there, he said “Can I try something?” and the answer, as always, was yes.

Experimenting

When I posted the results of the shoot, overwhelmingly the comments gravitated toward my son’s test. I could see possibilities in the movement and delicate nature of the light. I went down to the lake to take some shots at the beach. And that’s how it all snowballed. Even with not really nailing the focus, I loved the look of these ribbons.

V3 Light Bar aka MOAR LIGHTS

However, I wasn’t happy with the cobbled-together light bar. It worked fine and I couldn’t argue with the photos, but I knew I could do more. So I ordered a different strip of LEDs and bought some aluminum plywood edging. Then I modelled some inserts to press the strip into the edging. This looked fantastic. It was so clean and felt right.

Getting to Shoot In Places

I reached out to the owner of my favourite watering hole AAA and asked if he’d be cool with me shooting the light bar in his establishment. He was into it and we made plans to have me in the space. Thanks to COVID-19, inside seating was off limits so I had free rein. I made the most of it and loved the shots generated.

Then I got to shoot at Red Tape Brewery

Then Little Red Wagon Winery

I did a run to the Distillery District

I made a shorter bar with a denser strip of LEDs. Up until now, I’d been using meter long strips and it can be a little big. So I split a strip in half and made a half-meter bar. Then we went to a cottage on an island.

My latest shoot was at Lavender Menace.

So What Do We Do?

A friend in the LGBTQ community asked me what I was going to do with the photos. I said “I think what I want to do is let people buy them and donate money to a LGBTQ-led org.” They confirmed that was a great way to show my support. So that’s what I am looking into. A printing and drop ship service where people can select a photo, have it printed and shipped to them. I’d take profits and donate them. I asked a photographer friend, David Bastedo, to print some photos to see how they’d turn out and I am blown away with the results.

What’s next? My intention is to run this as a series for one year. Pride month 2021 to Pride month 2022. I am in discussion with a few locations about shooting in their spaces.

Thanks to Thinkingbox

Thinkingbox was receptive to my after-hours project. Even going so far as to add me to their medium post and using one of my photos as their Spotify Pride 2021 playlist image!

To iterate on the concept, I offered to build light bars for Thinkingbox’s various offices so they can shoot in their locales. I am hoping to art direct remotely and we can run those photos as an off-shoot of my main series.

Who knows what surprises Pride 2022 will hold?

All images © 2015-2021 Hugh Elliott

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