Images from the Biltmore Estate – Part 2

•April 21, 2015 • 5 Comments

At the Biltmore House, there is an almost overwhelming number of beautiful and ornate objects. Paintings, bronzes, and one of a kind hand-made furniture are everywhere. The Oak Sitting Room really exemplifies this density of rich furnishings. Only Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom (which we photographed, and which will be featured in a future post) exceeds the level of detail found in this room.

Jim Ryan and I agreed that the Oak Sitting Room was a “must-do” on our list of things to photograph!

Here I am going over a capture with Jim Ryan and Kara Warren:

Photographer Harold Ross light paints Biltmore Oak Sitting Room

Photograph by Vera Ross

This room is full of the most interesting things… but the centerpiece is the large ebony hand-carved cabinet-on-stand, which was crafted in Belgium in the 1600s. Behind the inlaid parquetry doors is a classically inspired miniature scene; a loggia with gold statues, marbleized columns and a frescoed ceiling, all overlooking a trompe-l’oeil landscape.

Next to the unique cabinet is a painting by John Singer Sargent of George Vanderbilt’s aunt, Mrs. Benjamin Kissam.

The room is between Mr. Vanderbilt’s and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedrooms, and served as a private sitting room for the couple.

The Oak Sitting Room

Harold Ross's light painted photograph of the Biltmore House Oak Sitting Room

Photograph by Harold Ross

A video clip showing me light painting the vase using a scrim and LED panel, a great solution for lighting reflective subjects:

A detail of the beautifully crafted miniature scene inside the cabinet:

Biltmore Oak Sitting Room Cabinet Detail

Photograph by Harold Ross

 The lovely inlaid chest and bronze figures below the Sargent painting:

Biltmore Oak Sitting Room Credenza detail

Photograph by Harold Ross

When walking through the Biltmore “scouting”, in order to decide what to photograph, we found ourselves in the Family Sitting Room, which we later photographed (I’ll feature that image in a future post), but to one side of the room is the most unusual fireplace (one of 65 in the house), and I was drawn to photograph it as soon as I saw it. I’ve always loved the color combination of gray and yellow, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to photograph this fireplace!

The Family Sitting Room Fireplace

Harold Ross's light painted photograph of the Biltmore Family Fireplace

Photograph by Harold Ross

The mantel is intricately carved:

Harold Ross's light painted photograph of the Biltmore Family Fireplace detail 1

Photograph by Harold Ross

A video clip showing the lighting of part of the fireplace. I’m using a 5″x24″ LED panel, powered by a belt mounted battery pack, and you can see the computer that I’m using for tethered capture. The trick is to learn to see the buildup of light over time, which takes some practice:

The massive cast iron reflective fireback:

Harold Ross's light painted photograph of the Biltmore Family Fireplace detail 2

Photograph by Harold Ross

What an amazing experience it was to light paint at the Biltmore House!

A huge THANKS to Jim Ryan who made this project possible, and who spent many late hours with me shooting and doing post production.

And, for logistical help on the shoot, thanks to Laura Overbey, Collections Manager at the Biltmore, who helped us coordinate everything, and stayed late for us;

For the Oak Sitting Room image, Aaron Hunt of Engineering Services, who managed house lights and stayed late; and Kara Warren of Museum Services, who also stayed late to assist us.

For the Fireplace image, Renee Jolly of Museum Services (Renee actually helped restore the fireplace), who stayed late to assist us, and Trip Hudgins and Adam Austin of Engineering Services for nudging the fireplace reflector plate, no easy task!

And, of course, thanks to my wife Vera for, as always, helping me every step of the way!

Stay tuned as we publish more images from the Biltmore House!

All material in this post © Harold Ross 2015

Images from the Biltmore Estate – Part 1

•April 16, 2015 • 18 Comments


Photograph by Vera Ross

A few months ago, fellow photographer Jim Ryan and I were able to light paint at the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. Jim, who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, was able to garner access for us (no small feat!), and we were able to shoot at night (a good thing for light painting). We spent three nights shooting a dozen images, and although challenging, it was a very fun and memorable experience. To be in that amazing place with no visitors around, and in the dark, was incredible! I am so excited to finally be able to share these images with you!

I’ll be doing a series of posts about all 12 images, and I’ll discuss some of the behind-the-scenes details of the shoot. I’ll be doing a new post roughly once a week, each featuring one or two images, so stay tuned!

During the time leading up to the shoot, we had an arduous task; to narrow down just a few photographic subjects from an overwhelming number of choices. Since we only had three nights, and since light painting takes longer than other types of photography, this was certainly a challenge, but we both immediately decided that photographing in the Great Banquet Hall was a must. During a visit to the Biltmore many years ago, the Banquet Hall embedded itself into my memory… the 70 foot high ceiling, the huge dining table which sits 64 guests, the hand carved chairs upholstered in red velvet, and the beautiful tapestries which line the hall.

On one end of the room are three enormous fireplaces. On the other, a large three-sectioned wall with ornate hand carved details and arched niches display beautiful old European copper and brass vessels. An image of this wall will be in a future post.

Along the back wall of the Banquet Hall are two intricately carved thrones, flanked by the aforementioned 450 year-old Flemish tapestries.

The Grand Banquet Hall Throne.

Harold Ross Light Paints the Biltmore Dining Hall Throne

 Photograph by Harold Ross

The images shot at the Biltmore were quite challenging, and this one was no exception. The throne is very tall. I had to light paint a lot of it from the top of a 12 foot ladder, and in my way of lighting, the light must come from a particular direction and be moved in a certain way to create a look of softness and depth at the same time. This is no easy task, and it involves holding a large LED panel, powered by a belt mounted battery belt, while balancing on the ladder, in the dark. All of this while using light to “sculpt” the subject, enhancing its detail and depth. I certainly got a workout going up and down the ladder for each capture while using tethering software in order to check the image on the computer. At the end of the video clip, you can hear me asking Jim how the capture looks before I make yet another trip down the ladder.

This video clip gives the viewer a sense of just how large the throne is!  

A detail of the tapestries and carvings.

Harold Ross's light painted image of the Banquet Hall Throne (detail)

 Photograph by Harold Ross

Of course, sculpting with light allows me to bring out a great deal of detail, but one of the challenges of Biltmore House is that there is detail everywhere. Every square inch is filled with something interesting. It actually reminded me, although on a different scale, of the Dutch Painters’ genre “Pronkstilleven” which translates to “Ostentatious Still Life”. These were paintings that were filled to the brim with lavish man-made objects.

 A detail showing the hand painted silk inlays and intricate wood carvings.

Biltmore Dining Hall Throne detail

Photograph by Harold Ross

The Smoking Room, size-wise, is diametrically opposed to the Great Banquet Hall. It is a small room, with an intimate feeling, and this is where George Vanderbilt spent time with a book and a cigar or pipe. It is a masculine space, and it’s obvious that Mr. Vanderbilt probably spent quite a few hours here with friends, all wearing their elaborate smoking jackets. For me, the fireplace (one of 65 in the house), guarded by an ever-watchful owl, is the “centerpiece” of the room.

The Smoking Room.

Biltmore Smoking Room

Photograph by Harold Ross

Here is a video clip showing the lighting of the mantel. Although it may look easy, what isn’t apparent is that I’m “seeing” the buildup of light over time. This is a skill that requires practice!

Light painting brings out the exquisite details of the feathers.

Biltmore Smoking Room Detail

Photograph by Harold Ross

Detail of the carved stone mantel and bookcase.

Biltmore Smoking Room Detail

Photograph by Harold Ross

A huge THANK YOU! goes out to Jim Ryan who made this project possible, and who spent many late hours with me shooting and doing post production.

Vera and I are forever grateful for having had this opportunity, Jim!

And, for logistical help on the shoot, thanks to Laura Overbey, Collections Manager at the Biltmore, who helped us coordinate everything, and stayed late for us;

For the Banquet Hall images, Trip Hudgins of Engineering Services, who crawled into that teeny tiny spot in the attic to reach the fuse to turn off the chandeliers in the Banquet Hall; and Lenore Hardin of Museum Services, who also stayed late to assist us.

And, of course, thanks to my wife Vera for, as always, helping me every step of the way!

Stay tuned as we publish more images from the Biltmore House!

All material in this post © Harold Ross 2015

Pennhurst State School and Hospital

•February 20, 2015 • 7 Comments

My friend John Corcoran and I were invited by (his cousin) photographer Mike Munchel to go to the Pennhurst State School and Hospital to do some light painting! The Hospital was a mental institution for children, and it was in operation from 1908 until 1987. The hospital was closed after at least a decade of controversy surrounding the living conditions and alleged abuse of children living there.

Pennhurst State School and Hospital

Although a very somber place, the place is a magnet for photographers. Peeling paint, rust and decay… all combined with the possibility of hauntings make Pennhurst an interesting place indeed!

John and I actually had a very strange experience that day. There were several other photographers there, and some of them went upstairs while John and I remained on the first floor. We were just beginning to photograph in one large room on the lower floor of one of the main buildings, and notably, we were told by the hosts that nothing should be moved.

As we were setting up our cameras, we began hearing loud noises from above, noises made by pieces of furniture and beds being moved around. We talked about it, and both decided that there must have been a photographer up there who was disregarding the rules, and we shrugged it off. We both became absorbed in our work, and after light painting for 30 minutes or so, we suddenly realized that the noises had been going on the whole time without pause! It was a little spooky.

Light painting (or, as I like to call it, Sculpting with Light) brings out detail, depth and texture like nothing else. Below are some of the photographs that John and I made that day. We actually felt a bit rushed (a problem for light painters), due to the limited time we were allowed to shoot, but we managed to make some interesting images.


The first image I shot was in the room where we heard the noises from overhead. I was drawn to the colors and textures in this scene.

Photographer Harold Ross at Pennhurst

Photograph by Harold Ross

 In a hallway near one of the playrooms.

Photographer Harold Ross - Pennhurst_wall

Photograph by Harold Ross

John saw this on one of the doors to a bedroom. The design in this image is made of medical tape.

Photographer John Corcoran_Pennhurst_Door_JC

Photograph by John Corcoran

In one of the bedrooms, there were beds and chairs with restraints. While shooting this image, I felt such sadness for the children that lived at Pennhurst.

Photographer Harold Ross _Pennhurst_2

Photograph by Harold Ross

Discarded mattresses.

Photographer Harold Ross_Pennhurst_3

 Photograph by Harold Ross

Mike Munchel’s Pennhurst pictures are HERE. Thanks for the invite, Mike!

Recap of 1-on-1 Workshop… Ron Studebaker… You Reap What You Sew.

•January 31, 2015 • 5 Comments

Ron Studebaker, a “Sculpting with Light” alumnus, returned to the studio for an individual 3 day session. After flying in from Colorado, Ron decided to check out some local antique stores (and we have a lot of them here), and he ended up picking up some very cool vintage sewing equipment. I like seeing “new” things, and although I have a great collection of props, vintage and otherwise, there is nothing like the challenge of light painting something new!

In this image, I just love the silky reflections that Ron was able to get on the spools of thread, and how the jar of buttons is so colorful, dimensional and detailed. The scissors are also very interesting… make sure to click on the image to see the wonderful details (the image is a lower-res Jpeg, so the original is even more detailed.) The tonalities, textures and dimension are only able to be had through the Sculpting with Light process. Great job, Ron!

Photograph by workshop student Ron Studebaker

To see more student images from my workshops, click HERE.

Recap of 1-on-1 Workshop… Paulie Grugan and his war memorabilia!

•January 28, 2015 • 2 Comments

It just so happens that some photographers decide to return to my studio to take an advanced One-on-One three day workshop, and because these students are experienced and it’s just the two of us, we can get into more complex compositions. Basically, there is no need to cover light painting theory or for me to do my light painting and post demonstrations, so we can “hit the ground running”. This means that we have lots more time to work. Also, I encourage these photographers to bring their own subject matter. The reasons for this are many… First, I get to see cool things! Second, the photographer can feel the great pleasure of creating a unique image with their things, as opposed to them choosing props from my (albeit quite large) collection. Finally, the challenges of light painting fresh, and perhaps unique objects, is exciting!

Paulie Grugan, an accomplished photographer who works as a firefighter in Philadelphia, collects war memorabilia. He has a lot of it, and it is as interesting as it is historical. Coming from a military family (My father and grandfather were both in the Army, my Uncle Mike was a Green Beret in Vietnam, and my brother Norman was a military policeman), I have a great appreciation for this historical subject matter. Needless to say, I was psyched up to work with Paulie to make a really great photograph of some of his collection. I think we succeeded!

Please take a minute to look at the image in large size (click on the image) to see the details!

Photograph by Light Painting student Paulie Grugan

To see more student images from my workshops, click HERE.

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Dates For Light Painting Workshops!

•January 27, 2015 • 2 Comments


Photograph by Harold Ross

We are excited to announce that we have added new dates (see below) for our group Light Painting the Still Life Workshops which will be held here at my home studio (in beautiful Lancaster County, PA).

~ March 6th, 7th, and 8th, 2015 ***This workshop has been filled. Please contact us if you would like to be placed on the waiting list.***

~ April 10th, 11th, and 12th, 2015 ***This workshop has been filled. Please contact us if you would like to be placed on the waiting list.***


~ May 15th, 16th, and 17th, 2015

~ June 12th, 13th, and 14th, 2015

~ July 10th, 11th, and 12th, 2015

Registration is now open, and the workshop is limited to 4 students.

Click HERE for the schedule and details of the workshop.

My workshops involve real teaching of the methods I employ, and this is a technical and intensive workshop… you will be given the training needed to produce work at a very high level. You will be receiving personal, detailed hands-on (literally!) instruction on proper light painting (not light pointing), and my post production process. You will actually learn the nuances of lighting, and the nuances of using masking to create beautiful images!

My co-instructor, John Corcoran, will be bringing a lot of experience to the workshop. He has worked as a professional photographer for over 35 years, and has been light painting for almost 20 of those years.

He shoots wonderful floral images and portraits, all using light painting. You can see some of John’s images HERE.

You can see my students’ images in my Student Workshop Images page.

Recap of 1-on-1 Workshop… Will Rose from the UK

•January 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

Workshop attendee Will Rose, who traveled here from the UK, created this simple yet beautiful composition.

Back in the UK, Will has access to some beautiful old subjects, such as a lovely vintage postal scale, some gorgeous old tools, etc. Of course, he couldn’t bring these things, so he had to settle for my collection of, as they say in England, “Bits and Bobs.”

Will was a dedicated student and we had a great time working on this lovely photograph. He struck a nice balance with having a background element, which is interesting yet at the same time “in the background”. This was so well done by subtly softening the chest and handle, and by keeping it just a bit darker than the foreground objects. Great job, Will!

Photograph by workshop student Will Rose

To see more student images from my workshops, click HERE.


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