Lights, camera, action!
There’s a lot to do in the gorgeous city of Sydney, and recently I had the chance to try something I’d never done before – a night time photography tour that teaches people how to light up the night.
I’d seen some of the pictures with letters or words suspended in thin air before and thought some of them were quite beautiful, but I’ve got to say I had no idea how much fun it would be to actually create the images.
I came across Understand Down Under’s night tours through the online travel portal Triptide. It looked like an interesting thing to do, and so my friend Scott and I headed down to Circular Quay to meet up with Andy Richards from UDU tours on one of Sydney’s beautiful Vivid nights.
Within minutes of meeting Andy we knew we were onto a winner. He started off by telling us about some of the basics of light painting, and then said that he loves new challenges so if we had any ideas at all, we could bounce them off him.
We started off simple… very simple in fact, painting an X each. For those new to light painting (like we were), it’s all about using long exposure times to manipulate the light. The camera will only pick up what’s lit up, and so by waving pretty coloured lights back and forth we were able to create our X marks the spot.
Next up, Andy was going to teach us how to write our own name. The trick was to write the letters backwards so that they camera would show them the right way around.
Scott was up first. I was a little jealous that the letters in his name are so much easier to write backwards than mine, and after accidentally getting his S the wrong way around the first time, Scott then nailed it.
I was up next, and somehow I managed to have a bushfire blonde moment and in my head I not only had to write the letters backwards, I had to write my entire name backwards, which is how my first attempt ended up looking a bit more like AONAWA than anything resembling English.
After Scott and Andy stopped laughing long enough to figure out what I’d done wrong, I then had another crack at it and managed something that looked a lot more like my name.
But it wasn’t a patch on what Andy did when he showed us how it was done…
By this stage, we were starting to get the idea. As were a lot of the other tourists who were stopping to watch what we were doing, and asking Andy how they could book him for a tour of their own. Something I’d highly recommend.
You see the great thing for out-of-towners is that Andy is a real tour guide as well as a night photography whizz, so he’s able to collect people from their hotel room and give them a Sydney history lesson as he creates the photos with them.
As for Scott and I, we were all about having fun with the photos, and we had a possible challenge for him.
“Do you think you could do a kind of headless horseman?” Scott asked, “Could we paint it so it looks like I’m holding my own dead head in my hand?”
Andy’s eyes lit up, he’d thought about this once before but hadn’t done it yet, and so the three of us headed up into a nearby park to get away from the Vivid crowds and to try our headless hand at it.
As you can see, after having lots of fun trying to figure out the logistics, Andy pulled it off. Not only did he paint a headless Scott and then paint in his head where his hand had just been, he gave the head a deathly look. Something he also managed to do in my photo, and I have to say deathly pallor is a look I’ll avoid as long as I’m alive!
Noticing a cannon nearby, we soon came up with the next challenge… create a series of photos where my head would be a cannonball that would explode in Scott’s hands.
What came next was a lot of laughing as I positioned my head to be shot out of the cannon, Scott struck his pose as the man who was about to catch the human cannonball, and Andy ran around like a fiend painting us in, and adding smoke and flames as he went.
We had a (cannon) ball creating six shots that went from the firing to the exploding… which turned out like this:
Andy says he loves it when people come up with silly things they’d like to try, and from our point of view it was fantastic to watch the way he works, coming up with ways to make the images a reality.
It was almost time to call it a night, but Andy had one more trick he wanted to try. Earlier in the night he’d said that he wanted to try to do my logo.
I explained that was a crazy idea as not only would he have to write all the letters to Adventures All Around backwards, it was also in a circle with a compass in the middle. “Just do AAA, that would be more than enough!” I tried to convince him.
And yet, he still wanted to give it a go. He asked to see the logo, opened the exposure on his camera, grabbed a torch, and went for it.
Personally, I’m bloody impressed that he managed to pull this one off…
By the end of the night it’s fair to say that Scott and I were both very big fans of Andy’s work. We’d laughed, we’d made pretty pictures, and we’d learnt a lot along the way. A winner of an evening with someone who’s obviously very passionate about what he does.
It may have been our first night out with Andy, but I think it’s safe to say it won’t be the last. Now, what shall we paint next time?
To find out more and to book a night light painting tour with UDU visit Triptide’s Sydney Night Time Photography Tours page.
Coming to Sydney for this beautiful winter festival? Here are some of the best hotels for Vivid if you want to be in the middle of the festival vibe.
Amanda Woods took part in the UDU Tour as a guest of Triptide, but as usual all views and reviews are her own.