Denis does not use Photoshop or any other program to create these spheres of streaking light, instead relying on what we could call ‘the old fashion way’ of something akin to light-painting.
He uses nothing other than lights on a string and long exposures. and shoots in a variety of unique locations. This project is nothing short of brilliant and Denis has blasted onto the scene and garnered international attention with his project and a documentary film. We got in touch with Denis to ask him about Balls of Light.
I understand you have been a photographer for a short time and if so, what got you interested in photography.
I made some radical lifestyle changes about 2 years ago. I was living a destructive and unhealthy (physically and mentally) lifestyle that was simply spiraling out of control. I was at a point where my marriage was at risk so decided to get my life together, move away from the destruction and start afresh in a new country, Australia. The move from New Zealand was a big decision, but my wife was originally from Australia, and had family here.
Once we had made the move I had a huge amount of spare time on my hands, and photography was a great way to get out and about, discovering new things and places along with a bit of self discovery became all encompassing. I had never really done any photography, so it was really exciting learning a new hobby.
The Balls of Light is a very unique technique and project. How did you discover it?
Once I had been taking photos for a while, I started to get a bit bored. I was living in a stunning part of Australia, the Barossa Valley, but it was all a bit ordinary. I had discovered light painting on Flickr, and was immediately drawn to it. There just seemed to be a real mystique about it. There were many people doing “orbs”, but I really wanted to take it to a new level by making the images about more about the surroundings than the actual light painting. Flickr is an amazing community that has both excited, inspired and motivated me to push m work.
You have traveled to some varied locations to capture Balls of Light. Do you have plans to trot the globe for even more variety of locations?
Australia is a massive place, with an incredible array of locations to shoot. I could never leave its shores, and still have a lifetime of stunning locations. But traveling the world seeking new and exciting locations is definitely on the cards. This September I am lucky enough to be heading to Munich. Whilst there I am planning a trip up into the Alps. I have never been to Europe, so it is pretty exciting. I would also like to visit Egypt, shooting in the ancient temples. Maybe up into the depths of China, and to the Great Wall. I am definitely planning a trip to Cambodia to the ancient temples at Ankor. What a wonderful place full of history that is.
Your technique often looks like midday, but I understand these are all shot at night?
Yes, I only really shoot at night, and always aim for the full moon, or either side of it. The moon is a wonderful soft source of light. I use very long exposures combined with some careful selection of light source to allow the balance of exposures to be just right. It took me a very long time, with many cold nights out, to get good at achieving this look and feel. The tell tail signs are the star trails you see in most of my shots.
I use absolutely minimal adjustments to the images. But they are always a single exposure. And not one pixel is ever added or removed form any of my images. Only cropping. This has always been super important to me and once people realise the process, and that they are “real” then they can be enjoyed for what they are.
Now the interest in your project has gone global. What’s next for you?
As things progress for me, and the Ball of Light project, I really want to travel. It would be amazing to think that the sale of some prints and books could fund that travel. I am a pretty simple guy so it wouldn’t take much. It would also be great to think that my work inspires other people to give something a bit different a go. If I can encourage people, especially young ones, to get up and go outside and try something new then I am a happy man. Photography is a wonderful hobby that allows you to constantly learn, and enjoy each other, and nature.
With the launch of the Ball of Light movie there has been a massive group of people contacting me saying that the changes I have made in my life have encouraged them to look at the way they are living. I also hope that my work inspires others to make positive change on their own lives, and see that you do not have to live unhappily all of the time. It takes strength and courage to make internal changes, and photography helped me to turn my life around, maybe others can do the same.
To view more of Denis’s Balls of Light project visit his website at Denis Smith Photography.
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