Written by James Read
Photos and illustrations by Sola
31 Thursday 31st July 2008

He was given his first 35mm camera by his uncle when he was eight. Between then and now he's turned pro and been working primarily on winter sports photography and fashion shoots. As a side-project from his commercial work he began to work on night photography, playing with the kind of long exposures that simply wouldn't work on the white slopes of the Alps.

This eventually led him into his current work - Lightbombing. Using a variety of controlled light sources as paint brushes, he has worked with both abstract subjects (Embro series) and cityscapes (Solid Trace series). He has also done some recent work in Dubai, which he's exclusively previewing for us here.

untitled, Dubai series

What parts of your technique are accident/experiment and what parts are by design?  

I built my technique initially by just playing and having fun with the technology, then moving on to take advantage of the camera, the environment and the light sources. Having said that, I'm learning new things all the time and it's often only when you play with an idea that you discover something new.  I think it's also worth saying that what I shoot is what you see, I never use Photoshop other than to remove marks from the sensor. I also have a personal rule when I'm shooting that I can never be at a location for too long - I like to be in and out without being seen. I think the time pressure makes you step up your game up.  

untitled, Light Trace series

I'm guessing that you are moving lights by hand in the photos. If so, how do you keep bodies out the shots?

Haha, that would be telling! I’d like to say it’s because I wear special night time camo or something, but it’s less exciting than that. It’s partly down to exposures and partly down to being quick on your feet.

untitled, Dubai series

Alright then, well at least tell us what kind of lights you use. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to various light sources?

I use all kinds of different lights from cold cathode tubes, to LED's through to the regular kind of torch you would take camping. They all give off different effects and when treated with filters and gels they start to perform in different ways. You kind of get a gut feeling for which type of light will work in any given situation.  

untitled, Light Trace series

What hours do you work in order to avoid overexposure from natural light?  Some of the lights seem to move a very long way without other lights blowing out the images (see above). How do you do this? We're definitely not trying to copy you, btw.

I keep pretty antisocial hours to be honest. I'm never out shooting before 11pm. This is for a couple of reasons; from a technical point of view you're quite right about the natural light as even a trace of light in the sky can burn out the shot with the long exposures I use. To solve this I work with the exposure and ISO ratings to get what I need – good lenses help too!

The other reasons I work late at night are part security and part freedom - on the whole, people are really cool and just genuinely interested in why this guy is running around the streets in the dead of the night with torches! I was working in Dubai a few weeks ago and at one point I had about five security guards watching in amazement. I love to work on my own as I have the city to myself but there's been a few close scrapes and sometimes I'd love to have a body guard on hand!

untitled, Dubai series

A few 'light-painters' have done some neat work with animation. Have you done any video work for Lightbombing?

This is something I’m looking into at the moment, but to be honest my main focus is on stills – there’s something so tangible and permanent about a still image and I think it makes it even more emotive as it’s capturing something so temporary. I have some ideas for bringing animation into my work but it’s a huge project and something that, when I do, will need to keep the same aesthetics and pace as my stills – watch this space!  

Are you working on any other collections meanwhile?

Yeah, right now we're negotiating a couple of commissions, which should be really interesting. Aside from the commissions, my main focus is on building the Solid Trace collection - It's something that for me has almost infinite possibilities. I also have a long list of ideas for other collections, techniques and projects up my sleeve and can't wait to get them moving.


See more of Sola's work at his website, where you are also able to buy prints of most of the above.

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