Colchester photographer's light-painting photos 'transform town'

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Image source, Andrew Neal
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St John's Abbey Gate. "I don't often paint light orbs, but it seemed like the logical choice, rolling out of this dramatic archway," said Andy Neal

The idea of daubing brightly coloured shapes across parts of Britain's oldest recorded town might sound alarming - but for light painter Andy Neal it is completely natural.

Working at night, he uses the light to "improve the landscape" with splashes of fluorescent colour in and around the Roman town of Colchester.

The award-winning wildlife photographer said: "When the animals went to bed, I needed something else to take pictures of.

"I find light painting a really creative aspect of photography. Initially, I'm interested in being able to capture the passing of time and movement in what is quite a static medium - it gives me the chance to push the creative envelope."

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Andy Neal explains how to create a light orb in a photograph
Image source, Andrew Neal
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Andy Neal said St Peter's Church, Alresford "has a lot of links with witchcraft and many people believe the fire that destroyed the church in the '70s was a result of the various rituals that take place there. Not the most festive of thoughts but it did seem like the perfect location at which to paint some phantom Christmas trees"
Image source, Andrew Neal
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"This was taken along a lane in Fingringhoe which gets very little traffic at night so I was able to get the domes painted along the edge of the road and then get the car to drive away, capturing the red lights as it went. The white light just above the domes was from another car that came the other way and completely by fluke, gave the domes the perfect clearance. This is the most amount and neatest collection of domes that I have captured in one exposure," said Andy Neal

Light painting is the art of using a handheld light source to "paint" within a scene or landscape while the shutter of a camera is left open during a long exposure photograph.

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"Using automatic focus in the dark is a non-starter, so I use a torch to light the building I'm going to be shooting against to check the focus," said Andy Neal

Mr Neal, 34, from Colchester, said it can often be cold and he often gets "weird looks" when spotted running around making little flashes of light.

"It is rewarding seeing the final result as you don't always know exactly how it's going to come out," he said.

Image source, Andrew Neal
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"I didn't want the light painting to distract too much from Layer Marney Tower itself, so everything is done with the intention of leading the eye towards it," said Andy Neal

"Why do I like it? You can try things you just wouldn't be able to do in other photography formats and you don't need the biggest budget."

Image source, Andrew Neal
Image caption,
"This view looking through the arches at the Chappel Viaduct at Wakes Colne has been very heavily photographed over the years so I was keen to do something different. The idea of illuminating each arch with alternating red and blue torchlight seemed relatively simple but in reality was quite ambitious and required a friend on painting duties as I took the photos and shouted instructions," said the photographer

"With wildlife photography, if you've more expensive gear things can become much easier - with light painting an old bit of plastic, some cheap battery Christmas lights like I used in the Abbey Gate image and a really basic DSLR and tripod can give you really good results," he said.

"A crucial bit of kit though, and it doesn't need to be expensive, is to use a remote shutter release as you don't want to touch the tripod or camera during the shot."

Image source, Andrew Neal
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"A popular light painting technique spinning a whisk containing lit steel wool on the end of some line. This is mostly done out in the open so the embers travel further but I wanted to contain it within this arch to illuminate the brickwork while bouncing off the walls," said Andy Neal
Image source, Andrew Neal
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"This photo at West Bergholt bridge [over the A12] stands out for me as I was able to get three forms of light painting in one image. Firstly the bridge itself which was painted by the car headlights as they passed. The car light trails over and under the bridge as well as the star trails in the background," said the snapper
Image source, Andrew Neal
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"These Lissajous curves [photographed at home], or Bowditch curves, named after the mathematician and physicist who originally studied them in the 1800s, are the light painting equivalent to the shapes they investigated. By introducing an element of science into the art it has enabled me to experiment with light painting in a completely new way," said Andrew Neal

Photos by Andy Neal

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