Behind the Image: NAU Guest Blogger – Areina Contreras » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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May 072014
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Photo copyright Areina Contreras

I love color. If you cannot tell my favorite color is purple. I took this photo as an assignment for my photography class. To be honest, this photo made me very nervous. I was on a deadline and it was my first time using the painting with light technique. This technique causes fast moving light to be slowed down by shooting with a slower shutter speed and wider aperture. This image was shot in manual mode because if not the camera will try to readjust its settings. Normally, an image needs corresponding aperture and shutter speed, but in this particular photo I have a slow shutter speed with a wide aperture. When captured properly light can be used to outline a subject or write out words.

Here is the background story of this photo. I asked my two very best friends for help with this photo because I needed people to light up my subject. Light can be very tricky, so the first twenty shots were testers. My friends had fun drawing out words and shapes. I was at a loss for how to shoot a photo with the painting light effect, but I had a stroke of creativity. While taking the starter photos I saw my friend’s bike on its back by the front door of her apartment. Since this technique was a new to me I decided that any subject would be great just as long as I could light it up properly and get a clear photo. The setup for this image is a bike placed on its back as if I was going to check the tire. Picture this, myself facing the front tire, my two friends on the backside of the tire in a pitch black apartment. My two friends had their cell phone lights on the bike ready for me to give the signal to outline the tire. My plan for this bike wheel was to spin it moderately fast while having one friend light up the inner rim of the spinning tire and the other friend draw something in the center to create more light reflecting from the rim of the tire. I counted down and on three I held down my shutter. I took about five shots and they were not so great. Since I was at such a long shutter speed I had shaky hands, so everything was blurry.

Now that I positioned myself in front of the tire I did not have a tripod handy, so I used my knee to help keep my camera steady. My friends giggled in the background as I gave the “Ok now!” The tire spun and the cell phone lights were swished on the rotating bike tire. As you can see I got the shot. The final product has a great story and my friends are always happy to help me out with my photos. I am happy with the outcome and the only thing I changed in editing this photo is the color. In the original photo the light is typical white, but I felt the need for color. I adjusted the color and decided on purple. After this photo I feel confident in producing painting with light photos just as long as I have assistants to help me create an interesting photo. This photo was captured with a Nikon D3100 camera at 2.5sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, with a 18mm focus from my 18-55mm lens.

About the Photographer:
My name is Areina Contreras and I am from the small town of Barstow, CA. I am a public relations major at Northern Arizona University with a minor in photography. I have always been intrigued by photography, so I decided to invest in a DSLR camera which encouraged me to add the minor of photography. It has been a creative outlet for me and has brought me to look at the world through a new lens. My photographs showcase the natural simplicity of special moments. My works include portraits, special occasions, and nature photography. My technique for taking quality images is to see the bigger picture and make it a reality. I am inspired by laughter, color, and surprise. I enjoy having fun while taking photographs and meeting new people that are charmed by my work.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

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