Star Light, People Bright

By Phil Plait | October 19, 2011 10:30 am

I love unusual photographs. Sure, the advent of digital imagery has made it a lot easier folks to play with photographs, manipulate them, make them surprise or delight us. But as someone who used to spend many, many hours in the darkroom when I was in high school, I still have an affinity for just being old-fashioned clever.

That’s why I really like a lot of the shots taken by French photographer Christopher Hibbert, who is clearly very clever indeed. Check out this photo, called "Field Walk" — which he created without software manipulation!

[Click to anthropophotonate.]

How cool is that? You can tell from the stars this is a time exposure, and while the shutter was open he used flashlights to create the human figures. I don’t want to read too much into the photo, but I like the way it ties the light from the stars in with the figures made from light. After all, as Carl Sagan loved to say — correctly — we are star stuff.

This image is part of a collection on Google+ by Christopher called Light is Life, and I highly recommend checking it out. G+ is really attracting a lot of great photographers, since they can post their work in good resolution and can discuss the sets as well. I’m following quite a few now, especially since so many also work in astrophotography.

I’ll note I post things on G+ that don’t fit the blog here, or are too long for Twitter. Follow me there if you’re interested.

Tip o’ the lens cap to Robert Scoble on Google+. Image credit: Christopher Hibbert, used by permission.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (10)

  1. Jason

    I have done some light painting pictures myself. They are very cool and a challenge to do well.. It looks like he used a flash as well to fill in the foreground.

    Now that being said, I am betting that this is not straight from the camera, but probably had some color balancing, contrast or even brightness adjustments. But No he did not digitally add or remove elements which is the general (public) meaning of manipulation.
    But to get truly technical about it, unless that is a RAW image then some software manipulation occurred. After all did you not just post an article about the scientific vs. public meaning of words and communication?

  2. Fritriac

    Whoa! Genius @ work!

  3. Thameron

    “Carl Sagan loved to say — correctly — we are star stuff.”

    While correct it was incomplete. We are roughly 10% Hydrogen by weight and that was made in the Big Bang not synthesized inside a star. We are star and Big Bang stuff.

  4. Chris A.

    @Thameron (#3):
    If we’re being nit-picky, not all our hydrogen is necessarily primordial. Spontaneous fission of heavy radionucleotides can emit neutrons, and free neutrons undergo beta decay into a proton (AKA H-II) and an electron. So perhaps it’s a matter of semantics, since the resulting hydrogen was primordial before it got fused into the heavier element which ultimately spat it back out. If so, one could argue that we are all completely primordial (unless, philosophically, one argues that hydrogen loses its identity by becoming part of a larger nucleus and/or a neutron, and is thus no longer primordial).

  5. Pete Jackson

    The lighting was done in an ingenious way since it illuminates for a long distance away without over exposing the ground nearer the camera. So the light is presumably quite a distance behind the camera, and it could either be a flash or a photoflood light turned on for a short duration.

  6. Wait, doesn’t G+ have some clause that says they can use any posted images which would void any sort of stock exclusivity? Did this get resolved?

  7. SteveJ

    @5. Pete Jackson
    If you click on the “Field Walk” link in the post, Christopher says he lit the ground with his car headlights.

  8. zandperl

    Sure we could follow you on G+, but many of us are no longer allowed to fully participate there because we are not allowed to use anything other than our government sanctioned “legal” names. Some of us have reasons to avoid using those.

  9. Wow, awesome!

    The figures bear a suspicious resemblance to a Randall Munroe cartoon. They look as if they should be making some ironic snarky remarks about astronomy or physics or something.

  10. dcsohl

    Sorry, Phil, but I’ve sworn off G+ as a result of the “real name” issue that zandperl mentions above. I’ve no problem using my own “real name”, but I do have a problem with any service that mandates it with as heavy a hand as G+ has. I’d recommend you do the same… ever consider Tumblr, just to name one possibility?


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