Get 30% off on Luminar Neo: use code EPZ30

Light Painting with a Harmonograph - Part 3


I'm retired and living in Northamptonshire, so plenty of time for photography.
...Read More

Light Painting with a Harmonograph - Part 3

21 Jan 2022 9:30AM   Views : 359 Unique : 227

Part 3 – Trying to Transition from Technology to ‘Art’??

‘Blue Burn’
Once I could exert a reasonable degree of control on the machine, I wanted to try other things, such as dual and multicolour captures using modified RGB LEDs and harder cropping, maybe saying something more than ‘great pattern’.

Around the time of the US election, I was experimenting with red-blue switching, trying to render an entwined form, a forlorn dream of the Republicans and Democrats maybe working harmoniously together:

‘Political Harmony’

More than a year on, it is still a dream, and a remote dream in the UK too! I used a Raspberry Pi micro-computer to switch colour, and control timing for the switching. I could also control the intensity of the LEDs. The RGB LEDs themselves are very low cost, so I could afford to experiment. I bought a length of RGB LED tape for about £10/ metre, so plenty of LEDs to use. Single RGB LEDs come with the dome shaped plastic encapsulant, so to get these ‘pixel sharp’ I had to polish back the dome and then apply pin holes in the Aluminium tape. With the other type, I just had to apply the pinholes, although soldering to the surface mount LED chips was a bit of a challenge! In both cases it needs a bit of trial and error, as the individual emitters are very close together. Programming the Raspberry Pi was very straightforward - follow instructions on the Pi org website here or ask a friendly neighbourhood student who has learnt to code in school! It is good fun and intuitive. The patterns are best when the switching is synchronous or near synchronous with the platform movement, otherwise the colour can quickly get mixed up and distracting.

The RGB LEDS can produce all the intermediate colours by switching two on at the same time. This led me to work on the Rainbow motif, celebrating diversity and our star health providers throughout the Pandemic in the UK.

‘Folding the Rainbow’
I think these are fine, harmonious patterns, reasonably artistic. With further work, the results could say something quite different. In the composite below I was trying to represent the year 2020, starting with a bit of a stir, and ending nearer chaos. The spiral shapes were achieved by switching the LEDs initially slightly slow with respect to the upper platform, then decreasing the delay slightly on each cycle (only three or four lines of code!)…so the pattern slowly synchronises and becomes stationary, then keeps speeding up into the ever tightening spiral. The first image has no motion on the lower platform, then this increases from image to image. The two platforms are not tuned together, making the pattern chaotic.

‘Going Stir Crazy’
Adding the colours showed me I could move further down the road of abstraction, leaving ‘off’ periods in the light, separating different colour forms…

I love this one; it is recorded with near Unison tuning, so the decay is slower, resulting in the lines being so close together that the red form is almost solid, enfolding the blue form. The forms are very harmonious, but with some separation, and belong together. It is a method I want to explore in the future, maybe with three or four colours.

Taking the switching further, this triptych is entitled ‘Ribbons and Bows’ and shows the different but related forms that can be produced by fairly subtle changes to the start conditions.

‘Ribbons and Bows’
The machine was only just capable of achieving good patterns with an Octave tuning between the two platforms. To achieve this, I had to have the camera very close to the top of the upper suspension, which increased the friction and made precession much stronger and more difficult to null out. I couldn’t come up with a universal solution to this, so I have to change the configuration to do different things. With Octave tuning, the patterns loose the ‘inversion-rotation’ symmetry that is clear in Unison tuning; the patterns I think become more abstract and ethereal. More in the next part! I hope you are enjoying this – only another two parts to go. Please leave a comment or message me if you have any questions or would like more detail.

Recent blogs by Acancarter

Dark Side of the Moon – the Cover Version

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (DSOTM) is one of those albums I keep playing…warm fire, glass of wine, volume high, bass you could feel and some tasty nibbles… a million miles away from the 70’s when just every student room had the posters from...

Posted: 10 Mar 2023 4:48PM

‘ Natures Scream’ - A Lenticular Interactive Print

In my blog posts you will find detailed instructions of how to make - and examples of - interactive prints using a fairly simple lenticular process. I have been working on this for a while and it is suitable for home printing. These images look dif...

Posted: 17 Jan 2023 4:10PM

Floral Photography with Panel backlight

'Wild Poppies 2' I’ve been posting images of flowers and other macro subjects over the last few weeks, which have generated quite a bit of interest and UA's.. I’ll give a few examples in this blog post. In many ways these images don’t look like pho...

Posted: 10 Jun 2022 9:21AM

Follow On - a new interactive print

My blog ‘Follow – Making an Interactive Print’ was posted around a year ago. It had lots of views, and the actual object mesmerised quite a few people – maybe a hundred or more – at the South Northants Art Trail in October. Several people now have th...

Posted: 9 Apr 2022 9:14AM

Fantasy Images and Soundscapes

Fabio, who posts very regularly on this site, (Fabio) is a musician and a photographer and has produced some incredible soundscapes to go with my Harmonograph abstract images. It seems like this is taking creativity 'full circle' . A Victorian scient...

Posted: 28 Mar 2022 5:35PM


cooky Plus
19 6 11 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2022 12:21PM
I love your narratives on your images and Going Stir Crazy and 2020 is such a great analogy.

I may not understand all the technicalities but can certainly appreciate them. Very well written Andy. Thank you.

BobinAus Plus
8 3 14 Australia
22 Jan 2022 3:53AM
I admire your painstaking work and the beautiful images that you create Andrew. At the same time, I realise that as I lack the necessary skills, I have been spared an obsession that would consume all my time! Many apologies for wrongly calling you Alan in my comment on your introductory post. Bob
22 Jan 2022 9:07AM
Thanks Bob! Its been a couple of weeks on, three or four months off type of obsession... have a think, make some changes, try them out. After a couple of weeks, I have to give it a rest! It has been great fun though!

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.