Sworbs - Automated Quasi-Orbs

Since I'm on a digging-up-the-archives mood, I thought I'd share a few light paintings from 2012 and the tool that created them. At the time I wrote an article about it that got published on DIYphotography.net and eventually got picked up by petapixel.com and even hackaday.com featured it.

I won't repeat the contents of that article. Instead, I'll start with the light paintings and hopefully make you wonder how the tool looks like before I reveal it in the end.

Here I found out for the first time that this tool needed to be on level ground. The sworb on the far right is incomplete. That's because the tool fell and broke. Had to fix it the next day which was easy considering the materials I used. These sworbs are not lighting the ground much because the LEDs were pointing up and I used a small aperture to allow for a 12 minute exposure without overexposing the light polluted sky.


Jumping arround with a flash with the tool doing its thing at a faster speed.


Orb d'oeuvre. Tool at its fastest.


One upside-down water reflection with steel wool for good measure. Tool at its slowest.


I had to clone away the feet of the tripod holding the tool on this one as it was annoying me too much. That's a big no-no in light painting circles, but I do mention it in the rare occasions when I do something like that.


The tool consisted of an RGB LED strip with wireless controller, attached to a drill with variable speed, attached to a motorized telescope mount. Very steampunk except there's no steam and brass, only gaffer tape and scrap wood. It worked for the intended purpose.

I would add that the sworbs this machine created might not be considered real orbs by some purists because the axis of rotation of the lights is not vertical and has a different center than the roll of the telescope mount, resulting in open orbs. I was aware that this was different from traditional orbs in many ways. That was why I made it.

At the time a fellow light painter who claims to have invented orbs was not pleased with the use of the word orb in the article. It was a reminder to call my creations by my own names, hence me calling them Sworbs.


Here is a detail of a hand cut bit of black paper I used to cover the LEDs. I didn't want all the LEDs on the strip to show. I wanted controlled tiny bits of light with varying brightness and not necessarily of the same size and distance from each other.


I'm also on Instagram - Facebook - Flickr - Vimeo - Twitter

For more examples of innovative and original light painting please give my light painting comrades a follow: @fadetoblack @dawnoner @mafufuma @fastchrisuk @martbarras @stefan.stepko @rod.evans.visual @yo-hoho @maxpateau and check out our Hive Community Lightpainters United