Hannu Huhtamo’s ‘Serenity’: Process of Painting with Light

Light painting is an unusual art form used by Finnish fine art photographer Hannu Huhtamo to create dynamic imagery. His photographs, whether he's creating strange creatures in the woods or blooms on open water, are a beautiful illustration of patience and talent. He takes us inside his work for one of his latest pieces, Serenity, as he paints two swans on a lake.

The technique is similar to that of a lot of other light painting artists, including Myles Eason. Huhtamo paints using lights from the sky as inspiration. We see his light painting creation in an inside video filmed by his wife Sanna. It's more incredible when you consider that until the exposure is finished, Huhtamo can't see what he's painting.

“Everything you see in the picture has really happened during the exposure,” Huhtamo tells My Modern Met. “There's something magical about it. When you draw things blindfolded, you have to concentrate fully on your body movements and muscle memory. It's challenging, but also rewarding. Such experience makes you want to push the limits higher and higher. I still find it a really inspiring way to express myself.”

Huhtamo's process is essentially the same, regardless of how intricate the composition. It may take him a week to learn to draw the image with light, depending on how detailed it is. He starts by making a sketch before proceeding to his light instruments. Learning choreography, he practices drawing in parts until he reaches the location where he'll shoot.

Once everything is planned out, it's time to paint the image with light. He begins by drawing lights in the air using a small flashlight or LED penlight. It takes him anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to complete each object needed for his final piece depending on how complicated it is—the swans here took about two hours each.

Huhtamo views the whole procedure as meditative when he's on location and in the moment. He carefully chooses his light painting settings in order to create a link between what's drawn and the setting. As a result, he aims to create an appearance that what has been painted is a natural component of the environment.