Painting with Light

by Sarah Popper

When I was younger I loved to paint and draw; actually, that is how I got into photography.  I definitely wanted to be some sort of artist when I grew up.  Every year in high school I took two art courses (except 9th grade, I only took one), so by the time I graduated I had taken 7 art classes. 

Each year I entered work into the Washington County Public School art show which first hung in the mall, then relocated to the local museum.  Senior year, my art teacher saw a painting at the mall that was well done from a rival school and told me to go check it out, because that was the painting I had beat. 

I flipped through some books looking at photos, because I knew I wanted to paint a tiger.  I picked out some ideas and showed them to my teacher.  He looked at them and then picked out a totally different photo, one that I would have never chosen, because it looked way to hard to paint.  Then he gave me this huge canvas to use, 24x36.  I had never painted that big in my life.  It took me about 4 weeks to finally finish the thing and long story short.... it won best in show at the local museum, and I was awarded a pretty red ribbon. 

What does this have to do with photography?  Well, originally I got into photography because I wanted to be able to take my own photos to paint from instead of using someone else's photos.  However, I picked up photography and loved the art form itself.  Since then, I have been trying to get one of my photos into the same local museum's photographic salon. 

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is truly a gem in the Hagerstown area.  It has an beautiful collection of art and is located in a very nice park.  I always wanted my art to hang there again.  Every year they get hundreds of submissions to the photographic salon and only accept about 60.  Each year they have a different judge with some sort of photographic background. 

This year they had over 300 submissions and they actually only accepted a little over 30 pieces.  It was judged by photographer Baldwin S. Lee who studied under Minor White.  I was overly excited when I got the email that said my photo "Tango" had been accepted. 

Tango  by Sarah Popper

Tango by Sarah Popper

The image was created for a class assignment.  We were given a song that we had to represent with music (song is included below). To me it was a bright and peppy song and I wanted to show the movement that I pictured in the song. 

To capture these images, I set up a light up high (camera left) with a blue piece of acetate.  I set up another light (camera right) a little lower with a red piece of acetate. Then, in the center directly to the left of the camera, I laid the strobe on the floor pointed up slightly with a green piece of acetate.  Next, I set up my camera using a 50 mm prime lens and set it to the higher aperture like f13, so that I could get a slow shutter speed.  I set my lights so they would flash, but then stay on so I could get the motion blur.  I also let in just a smidgen of natural window light.  I used my self as the dancer, so I had to focus my camera on an item and then I stood where the item was and used remote to take the pictures.  Eventually, I had to set up a little box on the floor so I knew when I was out of the picture frame.  That worked really well, cause I was able to compose the pictures in my mind.

All in all, I finally reached my goal of having another piece of my artwork in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.  I was particularly excited that this image got accepted.  It was always one of my favorites.  I love the colors in it, I love how I created it, and I feel like this photo is a true representation of how photography is art.  In this photo it is easy to see how an artist who started as a painter can paint with anything...even light.