In the Studio with… Darlene Yeager Torre

By Darlene Yeager Torre
Central Ohio Branch

Darlene Yeager TorreWhen I begin to work, it isn’t during the day or in a typical studio; it is in darkness. I create still life and landscapes “painted with light” — a photographic method that employs extremely long exposures and handheld lights to create what may not exist or to highlight that which does.

This method is similar to a painter beginning with a blank black canvas. Various types of lights in assorted sizes and colors are the paintbrushes. Dressed all in black, I step in front of the camera to begin painting by adding light. Using various motions, gestures, and manipulation of lights, I produce the illusions of shapes, textures, and calligraphic-type lines.

Using light allows me to add painterly effects like soft layers of colors, textures, contrast, or opposing shadows to a landscape or still life setup. Many of the techniques are unique to my work because I developed them through experimentation and modification of lights.

Dancer by Darlene Yeager Torre

“Onlookers” by Darlene Yeager Torre. The lines below the lilies were created with sparklers. Two other techniques were used to light the flowers and paint the background.

For still life, initially I employed only the typical techniques used by other painting-with-light photographers. But to truly paint using light as the medium, new methods needed to be developed. I wondered how far I could push the medium to create unique, painterly effects.

I discovered that, unlike pigment, when different colors of light overlap, they do not combine to make a third color. Instead, the brightest light dominates. And, although the exposures are long, the “paint strokes” are necessarily done with speed to create streaks and prevent overexposure. By using real objects and making light-painted surroundings, I can achieve scintillating and sometimes ethereal qualities.

For landscapes, the methods are similar, but the exposure times are much longer and the lights much brighter. The moon, stars, clouds, motion, and even light pollution must all be taken into consideration when planning landscapes. Creating luminous landscapes includes leaving some areas in darkness or shadow.

The artist's tools

Some of the tools

My years of studying and teaching art, art history, and art appreciation and a thorough understanding of traditional photography help in every decision. Extremely long exposures permit me to paint with light throughout the scenes. Whether I hurry toward a stand of trees to set off bursts of light with my handheld flash or wait as the Earth rotates on its axis, my approach is deliberate and planned. The resulting photographs convey the beauty, tranquility, and harmony of nature in a unique way not seen during the day.

“Dancers” by Darlene Yeager Torre. The only real objects are the red tulips/leaves and vase. All other flowers, leaves, lines, shapes are created with modified light sticks.