At the age of 36 Light Painting Photographer Ulrich Tausend already has some great life accomplishments under his belt. He has owned and sold a successful gaming company, he has helped to organize numerous large scale events, and is currently working at the JFF – Institute for Media Research and Media Education in Munich Germany. Over the last few years Ulrich has set his sites on setting a World Record for the Most People Creating a Light Painting! Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Uli about his record breaking work and his passion for sharing the Light Painting Art Form in his unique way. Check out the interview below…
LPP ∇ Uli, Congratulations on your wonderful work sharing light painting and your dedication to setting a light painting world record. Seeing all those people light painting together is really something special! Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
UT ∇ Lighting has always been an important topic in my photography. I started with Light Painting some years ago and I really like to explore what I can do with this Art Form.
While it is fun to do orbs and ufos and so on, I prefer to work with people. Most of my light paintings involve people in one way or the other. I like interaction, especially with newbies who don’t know about light painting yet and therefore often have really fresh ideas. It is always exciting to see people experience the magic of light painting for the first time. I am also very involved with education, I love the sparkle in the eyes of students. For the last two years I have been working at the JFF – Institute for Media Research and Media Education in Munich/Germany. I have a history of game design and owned a computer games company before selling it in 2008. Since then I have focused on media education but I am still involved with serious game design. I am a Sociologist.
LPP ∇ Does the name of your website 1000Lights relate to your passion for sharing light painting and education or something else?
UT ∇ My surname “Tausend” means “Thousand” in english. I use 1000lights as my light painting pseudonym.
LPP ∇ Is this the first time you have created a Light Painting on a large scale with many participants, or have you done something like this before?
UT ∇ Two years ago (2013) I organized the Kids Photo Award in Munich. There we first tried out creating an “audience light painting”.
UT ∇ The kids really loved it. *See more about the Audience Light Painting 2013.
In 2014 we repeated the event on a larger scale trying to set an official world record. Making an official record involving many people actually posed to be a bit tricky. Guinness World Records only wrote us about what we actually had to do to get it accepted after the event and their guidelines are pretty tough if you don’t pay to get some one from Guinness involved.
UT ∇ Since then I did several other “audience lightpaintings”. I especially liked the ones at the Ohrenblick Mal 2013 and and Mobile Clip Festival 2014. There we did something a bit more tricky. The people who won the award would freeze and put light on themselves with their smartphones. The others would add drawings.
UT ∇ In 2014 we also had a Pixelstick to “print” the logo of the event.
LPP ∇ What a great way to share Light Painting! Tell me about this most recent record attempt. Where was the event held, was it just to break the record or was this also part of some other event?
UT ∇ The world record took place at the re:publica conference about digital society. For the conference I handed in a proposal about new computer aided light painting techniques and I also proposed to set the record during the closing ceremony. Both proposals were declined. I also had another proposal for using Minecraft in Schools which was accepted so I went to the conference. The Minecraft session was pretty cool. We built our presentation in Minecraft itself which was a topic on the conference. I talked with one of the organizers of the conference (Jonny Hauesler) about it when the topic of light painting came up. He found it really interesting and asked me if we could still realize it. That was on the afternoon on 6.5.2015. At 22:00 he confirmed that they talked to the team and agreed to have the event during the massive closing ceremony on the next day! Incredible how flexible and open they are but that meant I had only couple of hours to prepare. During the night I planned everything. Back home in Munich I have a lot of equipment, but I was in Berlin with only a little light painting “travel” bag. In the morning I bought myself an extreme wide angle lens (Panasonic 7-14mm =14-28mm, f4) for my Olympus OMD EM-10. As I wanted the best possible setup I also borrowed a Nikon N800 with another 14mm extreme wide angle. That was actually not that easy as the company wanted a lot of money as security and there was only a little time to get it.
LPP ∇ Woah were you panicking or were you pretty calm because you had done audience light paintings before?
UT ∇ It was a pretty intense situation, but I was not panicking. I had done similar photos before, only on a smaller scale. I was pretty well prepared (considering the short time frame). My colleague Maximilian Vilser (who controled the pixelstick) also helped a lot. Also Lilian Kura and her friends were really nice. She is a professional writer and checked over my tweets to announce the event and she and her friends really spread the word. To give you an insight into what we thought about, only an hour before the actual photo took place we stopped a plan to get the camera to a even more elevated position. We would have either used a high ladder or even a lifting ramp, but both possibilities seemed to be too unstable to get a steady shot. Also it would have lengthened the event and I was a bit worried to tumble from the ladder with 2500 people watching me.
LPP ∇ Yes that would not have been good, lol. What about the lights for the participants, did you supply the lights or did they just use what they had available?
UT ∇ As I was traveling and not expecting to do a world record attempt I only had 10 lights with me, several helping angels distributed these. But 98% of the lights present were smartphone-flashlights from the audience. With more time to prepare many more people would have taken their own colored lights with them or I could have provided more colored lights to add more texture. You can see my pixelstick on the back left side of the picture writing the tag of the event #rp15lights. We did not know how many people would be at the event, so we wanted to close a gap in the back. But directly before the event more and more people came in and it was really packed. So the Pixelstick is partially blocked by people.
LPP ∇ How many people were actually involved in this image?
UT ∇ From what I heard 2500 people fit into that stage as you can see the stage was full when the event took place.
LPP ∇ WOW! How long was the set up, how did you explain the light painting process to all 2500 people, sometimes it is difficult to get 1 or 2 people to understand the Light Painting process.
UT ∇ During the closing ceremony I briefly explained what everybody had to do (take lights and move them or try to draw something). There were two short pauses before the closing ceremony which I used to try out the camera set up and we were also able to dim the lights for a moment for one test photo. I also had someone help me and press the shutter on the second camera.
LPP ∇ How long was the actual exposure for the image? Did you only have one take or several?
UT ∇ We did two takes, both from two perspectives. The exposure for both times were just 10 seconds and that was it, no retakes possible. I then ran back to the tech guys, cropped the photo in lightroom and they put it into their presentation. 12:00 minutes after the the shot it was presented on stage:
LPP ∇ Obviously you were not able to have a Guinness Representative because of the very short notice so are you going to submit this to try and get the Official record?
UT ∇ I am waiting for the video and some more photos from the front to try to hand in with them.
LPP ∇ I am sure I speak for all of the light painting community when I say WE HOPE YOU GET IT! One last question, what is it that drives you to share Light Painting in this way?
UT ∇ It is a combination of many things: Getting to know light painting astonishes people, it often sets a creative spark in them and is a lot of fun. Spreading the word of Light Paiting is my little humble way to make the world a slightly better place. Just seeing how the people react, they love it. It is pretty cool to stand in front of a huge crowd all waving lights.
But probably most important is that it fits in my own way of doing art. I like to bring people into situations where they have a feeling they never experienced before or do things they never thought of beforehand. In a way you could say that I like to manipulate people through art to discover and grow. Some will criticise events like this and question its artistic value. Instead of few doing professional light painting in a very planned and high quality way, it is many fresh minds trying it out without previous preconception of it. It is something unique which I think you can’t judge with usual quality standards which you apply to other light paintings. For me it is art nevertheless – or you could say it is art especially because of that difference.
LPP ∇ Is there anything else you would like to add?
UT ∇ The event itself was filmed but the video is not yet online. Several people filmed from within the audience. You can find some videos and other coverage on my page 1000lights.de/rp15. The tag of the event (#rp15lights) went trending (most tweeted) in Germany straight away. You can find more of my light painting pictures on 1000lights.de and my Facebook page.
In addition to the “audience light paintings” I have some other light painting specialities: – Again I like to interact through light painting with people who don’t have experience with it yet. That especially works well, if the people can see how the photo is coming along, while they are shooting it. – I experiment with my pixel stick and other programmable lights. The QVED Conference and the Mobile Clip Festival 2014 are nice examples for that. I am also working on live light shows with a VJ. but we still a way to go there.
LPP ∇ Thank you very much please keep up the incredible work!
UT ∇ Thank you very much.
Here is a little teaser video from the event until we can bring you the full version.