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Lightsabers can be deadly or beautiful

This photographer turned lightsabers into beautiful art. Redditors approve.


Fernando Alfonso III

Internet Culture

Posted on Sep 14, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 2:46 am CDT

In “Star Wars,” lightsabers are deadly weapons that can cut through almost any surface.

In real life, they are lighted plastic toys that can be used to create stunning works of art.

Last weekend photographer Nick Ulivieri, 27, and his girlfriend Amy were visiting her family in Minnesota when they came across some toy lightsabers. Having never done any light painting, Ulivieri thought it would be great to try the technique out in the woods.

Light painting is a photo technique where a light is moved in front of a camera set for a long exposure. The technique is usually done at night to create a dramatic visual effect.

Ulivieri set-up his tripod, mounted his Nikon D5000, set his exposure to 15 seconds, and told Amy, her sister Shanna and her boyfriend Tyson to swing away.

“The biggest challenge was creating a sense of dynamic movement, detail, and depth with the light path,” Ulivieri said in an email interview with the Daily Dot. “Once we determined what made for an interesting image, we started piling up the ‘wow!’ shots.”

All in all, Ulivieri captured 20 colorful photos, some depicting actual lightsaber battles and others showing light in motion.

For die hard “Star Wars” fans like Ulivieri and Tyson, it was surreal to see the toys come to life.

“I grew up with the original Trilogy (even had the fancy boxed set!) on VHS and watched it all of the time with my brother,” Ulivieri  said. “Amy however hasn’t seen any of the movies-yet. That said, she was a quick learner with the lightsaber. She got a few good ‘kill’ shots in when we were taking some of the photos.”

Ulivieri posted one of his photos to the Reddit section r/itookapicture Tuesday where it collected more than 40 comments and 551 upvotes. These numbers are a lot for this section that has more than 33,000 readers, many of whom don’t comment or upvote photos unless they are extraordinary.

Ulivieri is a professional photographer from Chicago, Ill. He picked up his first digital SLR camera in 2009 and hasn’t looked back since.

Here are some tips he provided to the Daily Dot on how to create your own light painting photos (preferably using some lighsabers):

1.  Find a dark spot:  You can do it inside in a dark room, but the space you have outside at night is much better.  

2.  Gear: Any camera with manual settings will work. And you’ll need a tripod. Oh, and some lightsabers! But any other light source will work (glowsticks, flashlights, laser pointers, fire, etc.) and will each produce a different effect.

3. Camera settings:  Set the shutter speed to about 15 seconds (more if you want, remember no real rules), aperture to around 5-7, and an ISO of around 200-320. The tricky part is focusing your camera. Ulivieri suggests using a flashlight to shine on the person/spot you will be standing so that you can manually or auto-focus your camera at that point.  If auto-focusing, make sure to switch the camera/lens to manual focus to lock this position in.  

4.  Take the shot: Once your camera is set either use a remote or set a timer to release the shutter. Get into place and when the shutter opens and go to town swinging, jabbing, and slashing!  Speed variation and abrupt changes in direction and orientation toward the camera make for more interesting images. Cheek out your screen once the shutter closes and repeat!  

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*First Published: Sep 14, 2011, 5:54 pm CDT