The things that I love most about the light painting community is the constant innovation and the willingness to share new tools, ideas, and techniques. Its so damn inspiring to see people bring ideas out of their minds and into reality and then want to share them with everyone! Chris Thompson, along with his brother Alan, have created an incredible new tool for light painting called the CRT or Camera Rotation Tool. With the CRT and his genius creativity Chris is making some absolutely stunning light painting images! The best part about all this (for you and me) is that Chris is happy to share how he is making these masterpieces and maybe even better is that you can get a custom made CRT yourself delivered to your doorstep! Check out these incredible images and read the short interview with Chris below to find out how to get a CRT.
LPP ∇ Chris you have been creating some amazing images with your custom Camera Rotation Tool or CRT. Tell me a little about this incredible piece of gear, what does it do exactly and what inspired you to make the CRT?
CT ∇ The CRT is a device which allows the camera lens axis to be rotated during a single exposure. The inspiration for making a CRT came from some of the great light painters on Flickr such as Juls Boo, Mart Barras, and LED Eddie; I wanted to experiment with my own style of light painting and camera rotation seemed like a logical next step.
LPP ∇ Who was involved in the creation process and how long did it take to have a final product you were happy with?
CT ∇ My brother, Alan and I worked together on the CRT. I’ve been making my own light painting tools over the years, and having access to my brother’s skills and his workshop full of drills, welders and lathes, it was a no brainer to create our own CRT! Over several months, my very patient brother and I developed many different versions of the device until we came up with the CRT we are using today. The challenge was to create a device lightweight enough to place on an existing “hobby” tripod, easy to use, accurate and most of all, inexpensive!
LPP ∇ What is the CRT made of?
CT ∇ We use a cantilevered 3mm mild steel bracket arrangement allowing the weight to be perfectly balanced atop a tripod. The earlier prototypes were quite heavy so with each incarnation during development we found new ways to take a few more ounces off the weight without compromising strength and stability. I think the last time we weighed the CRT, we were down to a kilo!
LPP ∇ From the images it looks like it mounts to a tripod, does it have a universal adapter that fits most any tripod?
CT ∇ One of the challenges during development was to find a way to fix the CRT to a tripod in the same way as you would a DSLR or digital compact; we soon realized that no two tripod makes were the same. We devised a way to fix the CRT to the tripod adaptor plate regardless of make or model; we supply the CRT with a nut, bolt and washers to enable a quick session with a spanner. We find it easiest if the user purchases a spare, inexpensive tripod adaptor plate to save having to keep removing the CRT from the adaptor plate.
LPP ∇ The images you have been releasing look so symmetrical how do you stop on specific angles or degrees to get the images lined up so perfect?
CT ∇ In the workshop, my brother and I had a Eureka! moment when trying to work out how to gauge an angle. We realized that most modern iPhone / Android / Windows phones have some sort of gyroscopic device built in; all we did was to buy a hot shoe adaptor with a quarter inch thread and fix a phone bracket on top of the camera. It’s easy to create an image with a rotation to less than 1 degree accuracy simply by downloading a free app to the phone. We don’t include these alignment gadgets within the CRT package due to their being so many different phone models out there but these are the parts we would recommend for alignment:
And the phone bracket:
CT ∇ The CRT is simple to use and speeds up the workflow with camera rotation photography. For the actual photography element I open the shutter on a bulb setting and expose the first part of the rotation for whatever length of time necessary, then I replace the lens cap without ending the exposure, wind the CRT around to the desired angle and then remove the lens cap. Then it’s a case of repeat this until you have your rotation shot. The angle alignment tools I mentioned above definitely help with the accuracy! The one thing you have to get right is the alignment on the subject; it’s best to do a test shot or two before rotating away! One other thing I’ve found is that it’s best to underexpose each part of the rotation by a little so the end result doesn’t look too washed out or overcooked!
LPP ∇ Do you have plans to take the invention further with any modifications or new light painting capabilities?
CT ∇ My brother is often in his workshop busy experimenting with new ways to make the CRT lighter without compromising strength and stability; he’s come up with some great ideas so far and the CRT is constantly evolving! Recently I’ve been experimenting with motion blur and camera rotation to create a more abstract result; the lessons I learn from this may be reflected in the final product! The only limit with the CRT is your imagination!
LPP ∇ Here is the big question… Where can we get one and how much does it cost?
CT ∇ The CRT is available for £150 (about $250.00) plus delivery charges to wherever you are in the world (we are based in the UK). We have a Facebook page, Camera Rotation Tool, where you can find details and the latest photos shot with the CRT. Under development is a new web site, www.camerarotate.com, watch this space! Alternatively, for details and how to pay for the CRT, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Also there is Camera Rotation Photography on FB to check out.
LPP ∇ Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, I really can’t wait to get one myself.