Stephen Orlando: Painting with Paddles

Featured aboard the Owen Sound Transportation Company from June 16 to October 18, 2015

Curated by Heather Hughes, Curator of Temporary Exhibitions, Tom Thomson Art Gallery

Stephen Orlando has established his career as a photographer by using light in an innovative mode to capture the rhythmic motions of humans in the natural world.  Orlando’s lens captures these light paintings through the use of customizable LED lights attached to his subjects and photographed at longer exposure times.  The effects are absolutely mesmerizing, highlighting the woven pathways of light of the object, telling beautiful stories of movement. From canoeing, kayaking, playing musical instruments to swimming across the lake, Orlando brings the individual movements of his subjects to life in a single photograph.  In this Canadian Spirit offsite project entitled Painting with Paddles, Orlando explores the graceful motions of paddling on the peaceful lakes in Northern Ontario.

Time, light and motion are the key elements to capturing a photographic light painting. This process is highly technical and extremely time and motion sensitive. For each of the photographs in this Painting with Paddles series, LED lights are mounted directly onto the paddle; the colour sequence is then controlled through an arduino microcontroller to allow Orlando to program the colour patterns. He then sets his camera for a long exposure, opening the shutter for approximately 10-30 seconds while the camera’s sensor collects light. All of the photos are taken at dusk to allow for low lighting conditions.  The camera will document objects emitting enough light or objects that are stationary in the photo; the LED lights will be captured as will the trees, water and reflections which get exposed in the photo. The canoeist and canoe itself do not emit enough light, and the paddling motion of the j-stroke does not allow enough time for the camera’s sensor to render the paddler.  The end result is an unedited, hypnotic light pathline across the calm surface of the water, surrounded by reflections, creating a sculptural light wave in nature.

“The goal of my photos is to create both aesthetically pleasing images as well as tell a story about the movement of an object.  This interest in movement comes from my aerodynamics background.  Similar to streamlines of fluid flow, these images show pathlines of objects.  In a single image, the viewer is able to compare different points in space and time of the paddle.  The background and composition is as important as the lines themselves.  Without them, they would simply be lines without any context.”

To see more of Orlando’s work or inquire for purchasing photographs, please visit his website:

Artist’s Biography

Orlando holds an MASc in aerodynamics from the University of Waterloo where he employed highly technical photography to study fluid flow. His work has been exhibited at the Odeon Gallery in Waterloo and has recently been acquired for private collections. He works full time as an aerodynamicist in Waterloo, Ontario and part time as a light painting photographer.

The TOM gratefully acknowledges the support of the 2015 Exhibition Sponsor: