The night shooter

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The velvety, black night serves as both inspiration and backdrop for Los Angeles photo artist Darren Pearson, aka Darius Twin. Since 2007 he has refined his technique in light painting and established a keen following amongst a small but elite community of light artists around the world. His subjects are mostly an array of mythical creatures but his work with skeletons and dinosaurs has drawn the attention of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, which has invited him to stage a live dinosaur "light art" presentation in conjunction with the museum's June 9 centennial birthday bash.

Light painting is both art and science. Using a digital camera with the capacity for long exposures, a tripod and a light source, Darren etches his visions onto the infinite canvas of space. His current camera is a Cannon 7DSLR with a Zeiss 28 lens, which he operates in bulb mode with a remote to open and close the lens when starting and completing his drawings. A simple flashlight on a key chain serves as his light source,but smaller LED lights, fire, Glo-sticks and even steel wool sparklers all can be used to create different photographic effects. For a better understanding he has recorded a great visual demonstration on his website.

A Southern Californian native, Darren moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in graphic design after attending UC Santa Cruz. As many in Hollywood have discovered, LA provides plenty of diversity for the aspiring artist and Darren's endless quest for unique backdrops has produced a spectacular series of photographs capturing Los Angeles by night. After sunset he scouts around LA's hidden underbelly to compile a list of potential locations. To avoid the cities excessive ambient light, he focuses on abandoned locations, many discovered simply by browsing blog sites or from Google satellite images: the sunken city in San Pedro, parts of the LA River, the Old Bank District, bridges and deserted railway tracks have all been catalogued in his photographs. Once he's pin-pointed his location he returns after dark or early in the morning to draw and shoot. Typically he's alone save for the homeless and the odd graffiti artist and so far has attracted little attention but he's alert about his surroundings, "follows his gut and carries a big tripod"!

"Los Angeles," he says "is just a fantastic pace to shoot because of it's versatility." There's plenty of steel and concrete but a lot of natural beauty in Silver Lake, Angeles Forest, Joshua Tree and of course along the Pacific Ocean.

Up until now the focus of his creativity has been, appropriately for Los Angeles, an unparalleled collection of dinosaurs and angels along with a large group of skeletons in various forms of motion. He starts with a sketch, which he saves to his cell phone and later decides what subject would best fit in which locations. Working in the dark, he uses his own body as a point of reference and the skeletal frame of his subjects facilitates his ability to get the proportions balanced. The skeleton, he says "is easy to relate to. There is no gender or skin color, we all have them." His fascination with dinosaurs started as a young boy when he drew them as cartoons and he's never outgrown his love for these prehistoric creatures. As a student he looked for ways to illustrate them within a photograph, but it was the photography of Pablo Picasso's "light" drawings of centaurs and bulls done in 1949 that finally shone the light on the medium he had been searching for. Before each painting Darren researches his dinosaur and practices at least a couple of times to get them to look right. He follows a strict routine; lens, lights, angles. Each swipe of light in space is a small piece of a very intricate puzzle, all of which must be captured in one single long exposure shot. From the first try to a successful painting there is plenty of trial and error.

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The Centennial Celebration of the Natural History Museum provides an exciting opportunity for Darren to demonstrate his art. His goal is to have his work exhibited in museums and although he has done commercial work he feels strongly that light painting be viewed as art. One of the key misconceptions, he says, "is that people don't understand the process" and "think my work is conjured through trickery or computer manipulation." Technology is advancing and he keeps working on new techniques but don't be fooled; there are no short cuts to Darren's photographs. Painting in space requires incredibly swift hands, technical know how and a spectacular imagination.

Darren Pearson will be performing Sunday June 9th from 6-6:30 pm on the second floor of the Natural History Museum.

Artwork: Darius Twin

Previously on LA Observed:
Dinosaurs over Eagle Rock, not in neon


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