Tag Archives: Stephen Orlando

Capturing the movement of musicians through light painting

One Waterloo artist uses LEDs and long-exposure photography to reveal the hidden patterns of musicians. 

Stephen Orlando has come up with an innovative way to capture music in photos. By attaching LED lights to the bows of violin, viola and cello players, the Waterloo-based photographer is able to snap a visual representation of the sounds being created with the help of a long-exposure camera.


Orlando can track these movements through space, following the arms and bows with vibrantly lit bands. We would assume that, like his other projects from the Motion Exposure series, he uses an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to program the set of LEDs to change colors, as a way to convey a sense of time.


“The progression of time is from left to right in the viola and violin photos and from top to bottom in the cello photos. Each photo is a single exposure and the light trails have not been manipulated in post processing.”

Orlando reveals to Colossal that he drew inspiration from light painter Gjon Mili, who experimented with violin paintings back in 1952.


This isn’t the first time that he has employed the help of LEDs and long exposure photography to tell the story of movement either. If you recall, Orlando has captured the “invisible” patterns of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, paddle boarding and skiing. You can see all those incredible images here.

[h/t Colossal]

Long exposure photos reveal invisible motions in sports

Canadian photographer Stephen Orlando has introduced a new way to visualize action sports through the use of LED lights and an [Atmel based] Arduino.


The technique reveals beautiful light trails, which are not artificially created using applications like Photopshop, and represents the actual paths of familiar objects. Orlando’s long exposure photos turn repetitive, invisible motions seen in outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, tennis, swimming and soccer into enchanted braids of light. Each sport requires the photographer to fine-tune his technique.

“Similar to streamlines of fluid flow, these images show pathlines of objects. In a single image, the viewer is able to compare different points in space and time,” Orlando tells Wired.


Orlando’s images use programmable strips of blinking LED lights that are capable of changing colors over time. A custom Arduino-based rig enables him to not only program the color and pattern of the LEDs, but accentuate the movements of whatever activity is being captured. In an exposure of 20 or 30 seconds, for instance, the kayak becomes invisible, yet the trail of light left behind as the kayakers paddle gets picked up and transformed into a vibrant light show.

Despite its revolutionary take on photography, Orlando notes that a number of traditional elements are just as imperative as well, including background, framing, and composition. “Without them, they would simply be lines without any context.”


The Waterloo-based photographer has spent a number of years analyzing and measuring fluid flow using various methods. Apparent by his impressive portfolio of work, the various images of neon light skipping across water or running across an open field are truly stunning.

“The shape of the light trails turned out to be what I was expecting. I did a lot of planning for these photos and I plotted out the expected path beforehand. The unexpected result was how visually appealing they are,” Orlando concludes.


Well, safe to say this is one bright idea! Intrigued by the photographer’s work? Feel free to browse through Orlando’s gallery here. Meanwhile, you may also enjoy some further reading on how artists are turning to the Atmel powered ‘duino to bring interactive installations to life — including a Japanese waterfront, a political debate, or even an impressive Nottingham night show.