When people ask light painter Eric Paré to name his favorite image, it’s often this one. The photo was made in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and a prime 24mm lens at 1.8 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 200. “However, these settings don’t mean much more than the capture of the scene,” he explains. Instead, the essential element to the capture was determining the right brightness for the light tube, which Paré traced in a circle behind subject and collaborator Kim Henry.
To make light painting compositions, Paré cranks up the camera settings and lowers the brightness of his flashlight as evening falls and the night sky becomes darker. “I usually start the night at 1.3 seconds at f/13, ISO 100 and end up at 8 seconds at f/1.4, ISO 3200,” he explains. “But my flashlight brightness goes from 2,000 lumens to only 50 lumens—that is, from the beginning of the blue hour to the late-night shootings with the stars and the Milky Way.”
For this 1.8-second exposure, Paré traced a circle behind Henry while controlling the camera with a remote-control trigger. To make a perfect circle, he started and ended it behind Henry’s dress.
What does he like most about the image? That it was exactly what he had in mind for this trip to the salt flats. Many factors are out of a photographer’s control on such a trip—bad weather, inaccessible locations. But “the clouds we had that night and the fact that we had no wind at all made everything so much simpler.”
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.