Using programmable LEDs affixed to a paddle, amateur photographer Stephen Orlando illuminates the mesmerizing patterns of movement, turning repetition into woven strands of light.
Orlando began experimenting with this particular type of light painting last summer; canoeing was the first sport he captured. A hobby photographer, Orlando spends his days as an engineer analyzing fluid dynamics. “Visually, there are a lot of similarities between these images and the work I do. These images look exactly like streamlines.”
What Orlando found most interesting about photographing canoeists is the trails of light illustrate that, during the forward stroke, the blade remains almost still after being planted in the water, as the boat is pulled to meet the paddle.
“That’s evident in the pictures, but it’s something that someone who is unfamiliar with canoeing might not have realized,” says Orlando.
Each image is a single capture, without digital editing or composite layering. Each capture lasts between 10 to 30 seconds, adds Orlando—however long it takes for the canoeist to paddle through the frame.
Orlando says one of the most common questions he is asked about his work is why the paddler doesn’t appear in the frame. “Since this is a long exposure, the only details that will show up are really bright—like the LEDs—and the details that are stationary, such as the background and the trees. Because the paddler is not emitting any light and because he is moving, the paddler is not in the same spot long enough to be exposed on the camera’s sensor,” explains Orlando.
Orlando has branched into capturing other sports, including running, skiing and whitewater kayaking. “Whitewater kayaking was the most technically challenging,” he says. “I spent two days trying to figure out how to attach a battery controller to a paddle and waterproof it.”
See more of Orlando’s work at motionexposure.com.
This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2015 issue of Canoeroots and Family Camping magazine. For more great canoeing content, subscribe to Canoeroots’ print editions and digital editions, download issues on your device or view this issue for free on your desktop here.