The Art of Light Painting by David Gilliver


These stunning images are by Scottish light-painting-artist, David Gilliver. The renowned artist has been light painting for over 5 years now – experimenting with long exposure and night photography, incredibly, without using any sort of digital manipulation.  Rather like photos of cars taken at night with a long exposure where the light trails remain, David has taken this art to extraordinary levels.

Having lived most of his life in Coatbridge, Gilliver went on to study photography at the Glasgow School of Art, then moved to the island of Guernsey.  It was there where he became interested in landscape, long exposure photography and light painting.

“Light Painting felt like the logical next step and I am so happy that I discovered this magical technique. Each image is created during a single long exposure and no post-editing trickery is involved. I do not even own Photoshop.”

Three Wise Men

Three Wise Men by David Gilliver

Describing briefly how he created the paintings, David describes the process:

“Each Light Painting is created during a single long exposure, and normally at night time when it is dark. The camera is placed on a tripod in order to keep it steady during the exposure which allows me the freedom to walk into the scene during the exposure and move my lights around. In simple terms, this is how light paintings are created.”

Electric Vazon by David Gilliver

Electric Vazon by David Gilliver

“One of the things that I have to be very mindful of when I am creating my work is that during each long exposure, anything that I illuminate in the shot will show up in the final photograph. In order to remain invisible in each photograph I therefore have to be careful not to illuminate myself at any point. I find the concept of being present in each of the photographs yet remaining invisible quite incredible. I have an undeniable presence in each photograph yet there is no evidence that I was there other than the light sculptures that have been left behind.”

Rainbow Reflection

Rainbow Reflection by David Gilliver

When asked why he enjoys painting with lights, David says:

“Light Painting is a very therapeutic form of photography. Standing underneath a sky that is littered with stars waving lights around does sound a little odd on the face of it, granted, but I implore anyone out there who has not yet given it a go to just try it once…  I work in an office during the day, so being able to escape the daily grind and get outside with my camera has become essential for me. Light Painting at night transports me to a very different place, away from the bustle of the every day. To put it simply, it is a form of positive escapism.”

A walk to the water's edge by David Gillver

A walk to the water’s edge by David Gillver

David’s favourite conditions for taking his light painting photographs are somewhere between a half and full moon for the optimum ambient light to help expose the surrounding landscape, but dark enough for the light to show up well.

Such is the popularity of light painting, largely due to David’s work, that he was constantly begin asked for advice on the subject, and in response to this David wrote an E-book on the subject – A step-by-step guide to Light Painting).

“If anyone out there owns a DSLR camera and is interested in having a go at Light Painting, then you should find my E-book on Light Painting a real help. It is full of all kinds of useful information on things like camera settings, and contains numerous tutorials on how to create different types of Light Paintings such as Orbs, Ribbons, Star Trails and much, much more. It will save anyone that is new to Light Painting a huge amount of time and effort. I have included absolutely everything that I have learned over the past 5 years so that my readers do not have to suffer like I did in my early days of experimenting with Light Painting.”

The Attic by David Gilliver

The Attic by David Gilliver

David shares his vast amount of knowledge on the subject with great tips, such as help with common mistakes:

“The single biggest mistake I personally feel a lot of people make when they are new to light painting is forgetting to expose the surrounding landscape to the correct level. Too many people seem to forget that they have chosen a specific location for a reason, and then get so carried away with the light painting side of things that they forget to expose the surrounding area correctly. This is why I will always start off by working out the correct exposure time before I add my light painting to the photograph.”

Glide by David Gilliver

Glide by David Gilliver

Born in Aberdeen, Gilliver moved to Coatbridge near Glasgow where he grew up.   He now lives in Guernsey with his wife and baby daughter.

“My wife Melissa and I have just had our first baby (a little girl) and so my nights are now being spent changing nappies and trying to calm down our beautiful nocturnal daughter, so I am glad I was able to create this work just before she arrived.”

David’s E-book is available now on his website


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