“All they saw were these huge lights and my wife and her friend in long, flowing dresses. They asked if we were an occult,” Calvert said.
Calvert is not associated with the occult, but his work certainly has an element of magic.
Calvert is interested in light painting, which essentially allows him to draw with light.
In the photograph from the abandoned bridge, Ann Calvert and her friend are seen standing in front of concentric pink and red circles.
In other photos, flames appear to be engulfing a walkway and a man standing on the other side.
No digital manipulation has been used to create these effects. Instead, the trick is a slow shutter speed.
“Usually when you take a picture, the shutter opens for just a fraction of a second to capture the image. With light painting, you set the camera on a tripod and you keep the shutter open for two, three or even five to 10 minutes sometimes,” Calvert said.
Flashlights, LEDs and other light sources are used to create artistic effects during the exposure.
In one of Calvert’s photographs, his wife is wearing a string of Christmas lights on her clothes. Colored wavy lines fill the night air behind her and in front of her.
The camera captured the illumination of the lights as Ann Calvert walked in and out of the shot at a pace too fast to be picked up by the camera’s slow setting.
Her image only appears once, when she stood still long enough for the camera to catch her.
Examples of Calvert’s work are now on display at the Carl Elliott Regional Library in Jasper.
Light painting is also known as light art performance photography. Ann Calvert is a frequent actor in her husband’s pictures.
For one, she stood in a pool of water in the middle of the woods for several minutes while Dennis Calvert created concentric circles behind her with a light bar he bought in the automotive department of a local store.
Calvert taped the bar, which had a row of LEDs, onto a paint roller and moved it around in a circle behind his wife to create the effect.
He also used a camping spotlight for the woods, a camera flash to illuminate his wife’s dress and a flashlight pointed at the camera to give the appearance of fireflies in the air around her.
Ann Calvert was completely still while her husband moved around working on the lighting.
“In a long exposure at dark, you can walk freely around in the photo and won’t be picked up in it,” Calvert said.
The first photographer to use light painting was Man Ray, who called the art “space writing.” In the 1940s, the technique allowed Pablo Picasso to be photographed sketching in the air.
Calvert became interested in light painting over a year ago. He began experimenting with long exposures of lighters, flashlights and sparklers.
“I got on the Internet and started looking for it, and it turns out that there is a subculture of artists all over the world who are doing this kind of stuff,” Calvert said.
Calvert has gotten to know many other light painters, including a man who is based in Germany and was recently hired by Nike to use the technique in print ads for the World Cup.
Calvert has also become well-known through his online tutorials and for pioneering two light painting techniques that are now used by others around the world.
“Perfect Circles” is best displayed in the photos from the abandoned bridge and the woods, while “Human Torch” is used to give the effect that someone is on fire.
Calvert said light painting has given him a desire to explore the world around him.
“A lot of places we go, people pass them without a glance in their day-to-day lives. But right under the surface, there is this incredible place where you can really create some magic,” Calvert said.