Light Spirographs


You may remember the lowly Spirograph toy from your youth and the joy of geometric art it created. Now you can mix your love of old time kitschy toys with your love of lomo.

If you remember the theory behind the Spirograph toy from back in the day it is basically a plastic template that you can place a pen or pencil in a little plastic widget and then put that into another plastic widget and spin that pencil around to get very structured complicated looking geometric image. These kinds of images make it look like you have spent hours calculating formulas to build this atomic age treasure. Recently I stumbled upon a way to incorporate this technique with my love of lomo light painting.

A while back I got some LED patio umbrella lights. These lights are round plastic disks that are battery operated and have many little LED lights all around the boarder of the plastic disk. They are meant to go under the patio umbrella to light your summer evenings. I use them for good light placement on my long exposure still lifes. Recently I tried doing some light writing with them and found that the round disks do something crazy. If you don’t keep the lights on exactly the same dimensional plane when moving them then you get these dramatic and graceful lines and intersections of these lines. So basically if you spin the disk at all while moving it or move it closer or farther from the cam, or even turn the disk a little on its side during the light writing process you get these bizarre and intricate patterns.

You can even do like me and throw the disks through the air and catch it later just to see what happens. Additionally these umbrella lights can be adjusted by covering over some of the lights with color gels or even duck tape and by doing this you change the patterns by changing the color or blacking out lights and changing the patter of the lights. So try it out with your favorite long exposure camera and play like you did in elementary school.

written by kylethefrench on 2011-02-16 #gear #tutorials #art #long-exposure #geometry #tipster #light-writing #colorsplash-gels #led-lights #top-tipster-techniques


  1. trashpilotin
    trashpilotin ·

    this is awsome! i wonder where to get these discs... ;)

  2. kylethefrench
    kylethefrench ·

    ah i got mine at a local store in the springtime but you can get them anytime of the year on amazon or ebay, they are pretty cheap too

  3. sobiksaabik
    sobiksaabik ·

    Very good idea!

  4. bloomingwreath
    bloomingwreath ·

    9th photo is awesome!

  5. trashpilotin
    trashpilotin ·

    @kylethefrench found it on amazon, thanks for the idea :)

  6. kerpella
    kerpella ·

    FREAKIN COOL! Keep it up man!

  7. kylethefrench
    kylethefrench ·

    Can I say I really like that so many people like this tip

  8. pepper-b
    pepper-b ·

    How cool!!!

  9. lyndxe
    lyndxe ·

    incredible - thanks for the inspir(ograph)ation!

  10. miss_maha
    miss_maha ·

    Amazingly awesome!

  11. lakandula
    lakandula ·

    Very inspiring work!

  12. nock
    nock ·

    The craziness of Light Graffitti! :)

  13. clickiemcpete
    clickiemcpete ·

    So THAT'S how you did it! I was wondering... :)

  14. pedrogalvez
    pedrogalvez ·

    I don't know if I'll can sleep tonight! I can't wait to get some light.
    Thank you for come in!!

  15. pedrogalvez
    pedrogalvez ·

    I don't know if I'll can sleep tonight! I can't wait to get some light.
    Thank you for come in!!

  16. welland
    welland ·

    Great Tip

  17. traaaart
    traaaart ·

    whoa! i was just looking at your flicks of this and found this article! I have one of these lights and figured this out a couple months ago by accident!…
    good call with the colored gels! that looks really cool!

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