Light Painting Workshops in the Lights On! project sites  


Vallisaari: light painting: Jani Lainio, photography: Kirsi MacKenzie


The Lights On! project seeks to create a joint network of historical tourist attractions in Finland and Estonia. In Finland, the spotlighted attractions are the Kuusisto Bishop’s Castle ruins, the Raseborg Castle ruins, the Rapola Hill Fort and the Vallisaari Fortress. The project seeks to encourage people to visit these sites in the hope that they will become attractive travel destinations.

One part of the project was to arrange light painting workshops at all  four sites in Finland in April 2017. I was happy to lead the workshops, but first I had to study light painting photography techniques myself, so I took a light painting class led by Jukka Laine in March. The course was inspiring and I was very eager to see what kind of pictures we would be able to create in all the historical sites. The idea was to create images with light painting which would illustrate the historical events and legends of each place.


Light painting techniques

Light painting is a technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera, or by moving the camera itself during exposure. In all our workshops, we worked in groups and we were lucky to have models at some of the sites. With live models, it was always easier to make history come alive in our light paintings.

Our first workshop: the Raseborg Castle ruins, 19/04

When Nina Luostarinen, the project manager of the Lights On-project, and I planned these workshops during the fall 2016, we thought that April would be the perfect month, since the nights would be pleasant and warm. We were wrong. April was unusually cold in Finland. The first workshop took place in the Raseborg Castle ruins. We had only two participants, but they were very motivated especially when we had such great models. Since one of the participant’s first question was whether it was possible to do light painting when it was still pretty light, I decided right away to demonstrate how it could be done. The first shooting focused on capturing images of our two models, Nina and Aino, in their medieval dresses in the inner courtyard. Timo was running around them with a light stick creating interesting shapes. Later, we also photographed the models inside a dark vault as well as in the inner courtyard and castle illuminated with a light stick and EL Wire. I had been watching Youtube-videos about light painting all day long prior to our workshop and my head was full of ideas, but time goes by fast and it was not possible to do everything. In order to achieve a good light painting photo, there are many factors to consider. You have to review each image after shooting it and make mental notes about what could be done better. Often it is necessary to take several photos until everything falls into place.


Raasepori: light painting: Timo Parkkola, photography: Kirsi MacKenzie

Raasepori: light painting: Kirsi MacKenzie, Sari Vahersalmi, photography: Sari Vahersalmi

Our second workshop: the Vallisaari Fortress, 19/04

Our second workshop took place in Vallisaari and was led by Jukka Laine. The participants learned the basics of light painting and then proceeded to work in small groups. Some of the participants had previous experience of light painting and were able to create very impressive photos with their own lights.  We stayed mostly inside the mysterious vaults of the Alexander Battery. The vaults were beautifully shaped and the stairs in one of them became the fascinating subject for our light painting studies.

Vallisaari: light painting: Jussi Pietarinen, photography: Jussi Pietarinen

Vallisaari: light painting: Martine Sarret-Talvela, photography: Martine Sarret-Talvela


Our third workshop: the Vallisaari Fortress, 26/04

I was very excited to see the Kuusisto Castle ruins for the first time. There is something magical about historical sites and castles. One can immediately feel the spirit of ancient times and even feel the spirits on the castle grounds. I contacted Nina a few hours prior to our workshop and asked if the models could bring a few items with them: a cross, a bible and some appropriate clothes. Our bishop, Timo, was able to put together three crosses and looked impressive in his bishops’ robe. All the models acted their parts really well. Again, it was an incredibly cold but beautiful night and the sunset was spectacular.

Kuusisto: light painting: Eki Tanskanen, photography: Matti J. Niemi

Kuusisto: light painting: Eki Tanskanen, photography: Matti J. Niemi

Our fourth workshop: the Rapola Hill Fort, 26/04

The nights were becoming lighter, so I decided to start our workshop with a presentation about the history of light painting as well as some of its techniques in the cosy Pakari building of Voipaala Manor. Again, we had wonderful models in Rapola dressed in beautiful iron-age dresses with old traditional instruments. The last workshop was dedicated to trying to get interesting images of our models in the breathtakingly beautiful forest. The most rewarding part of all the workshops was the group’s dedication to working together in creating our images. I will always remember one of the model’s daughter, Siri, who had to continuously run back and forth with a light stick several times until we were pleased with our result. There is a sense of magic in each of the four sites, and hopefully our light painting photos illustrate it.


Rapola: light painting: Siri Rautiainen, flash: Erkki Penttilä, photography: Kirsi MacKenzie

Rapola: light painting: Jani Hannuksela, flash: Erkki Penttilä, photography: Kirsi MacKenzie

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Kirsi MacKenzie