Incredible Steel Wool Light Paintings Done to Look Like Rorschach Ink Blots


Light-painting, like time-lapse, is a genre of photography that is packed full of talent, making it really hard to pick quality work to feature (if you haven’t already, check out this list of 10 amazing light-painting photogs you should follow right away).

We were thrilled, therefore, when we stumbled across Nicolas Rivals‘ series of steel wool light painting Rorschach tests dubbed, simply enough, Light Rorchach.

There aren’t a lot of ways to describe this series without using the words like ‘awesome,’ so forgive us if we seem overexcited. The thing is, steel wool light painting is certainly not a new idea, but this is an application that we’ve never seen before and one that turned out some amazing results.

To create the shots, Rivals’ burned steel wool and spun it around during a long exposure set up to capture a perfect reflection in water. As he describes it, “the symmetry of the reflection in the water causes the viewer to question the reality of photograph, and yet it is right here for anyone to capture.”

Here’s a look at the photographs he’s put together for the series thus far:







Like traditional Rorschach ink blots, these images are not merely artistic; they can also be interpreted from a psychological viewpoint.

“By turns, the viewer is both the observer and the observed,” writes Rivals. “You ultimately see some of your own personality, and therefore yourself… These masks seem to shout. “Tell me what you see and I’ll tell you who you are.”

To see more of Rivals’ work, be sure to check out his website by clicking here.

(via SLR Lounge)

Image credits: Photographs by Nicolas Rivals and used with permission.

  • DreadPirateZed

    Do we know whether he used metal salts for the colors, or filters?

  • DLCade

    Sent an email his way to find out, stand by for an answer :)

  • tgr

    I think Light Pareidolia would be a better title for these. Credit to him for using water reflections rather than Photoshopping or using a camera’s mirror mode – well, some compact cameras and phone apps have a mirror or symmetry mode, most DSLRs don’t.

  • Daniel Cely

    All I saw was helmets…

  • DreadPirateZed

    If it’s salts, I’m guessing copper for green, strontium for magenta, cobalt for blue…?

  • DLCade

    Nicolas just got back to us, according to him:

    “For the color, it depend of the size of the wool steel, its speed and the aperture of the camera.

    And for the green one, it’s the white balance (green – magenta)”

    Let us know if you have more questions and we’ll pass them along!

  • DreadPirateZed

    Very interesting! I would NOT have guessed that. Thanks!

  • J

    I think this collection should be called “Robotic Owls”