10 FRAGEN AN STEPKO
He is one of the most talented, creative newcomers in light painting. I hope you don’t mind me calling you a newcomer Stepko. He cleanly implements his fresh new ideas right from the start. And his ideas have it in them, the picture with the baby orb is one of the best light paintings I have seen so far.
So enough babbling; have fun reading:
Please introduce yourself
Hello, my name is Stefan Gerken, but most people know me by my stage name Stepko. I am 40 years old and currently live in Hannover, Germany. I was born near Hamburg.
1. How and why did you become a Light Painter?
I’ve been dabbling in photography on and off for the past few years, though I would describe it more as “snapping” without any serious aspirations. In 2017, I bought my first camera. In preparation for my planned African vacation, I wanted to delve deeper into the subject of photography, so that I could also come home with decent shots.
As I delved deeper into the settings and capabilities of my camera, I came across the item “long exposures”. I walked through the picture with an old bicycle light and the trace of light in the shot was the beginning of everything. Immediately, I was fascinated by the subject. I researched on the Internet on the subject of “light painting” and from that point on “light painting” had me under its spell and until today no longer let go.
2. What does light painting mean to you? What is your motivation?
Light painting for me is first of all freedom and the infinity of possibilities to represent light in the most diverse forms and colors, to bring light to places where it is rather dull and dark, to mix fantasy with reality. The moment I dive into the world of light, I forget everything from everyday life, everything negative disappears. It’s almost like a vacation for the soul and you can recharge your batteries. My drive is to express the fantasies from my head and finally represent them in a picture. The path from an idea in my head to the finished picture is always a great experience for me.
3. What equipment do you always have with you?
I don’t use anything special as a camera. The Nikon D750 is my camera at the moment. In the meantime, however, I have discovered my love for manual lenses, which again significantly increase my creative possibilities.
In terms of lightpainting tools, I did a lot of DIY in the beginning. However, I’m not very talented in terms of craftsmanship, which is why I like to use the tools from Lightpainting Paradise. When I’m out and about, I actually always have acrylic rods, tubes, color filters with connectors, and blades with me. Small and light things like El-Wire or small color changing lamps to light up certain things in nature or in the location still find a place in my bag. But often I only take the tools I need for my specific image idea, so no unnecessary ballast. My favorite flashlight is Ryu ́s Lightwork modified lamp , which is used in almost every one of my images. It gives me a lot of flexibility and makes my work easier in many situations, especially when I’m on my own.
As long as I always have new ideas in my head, there will always be new tools and flashlights. So there is no end in sight.
4. What was your most impressive experience in light painting so far?
The Light Up Berlin event has left the biggest “mark” on me so far. I was very excited beforehand. When do you ever have the opportunity to meet artists you admire and previously only knew virtually from the internet. The night before, I had the unique opportunity to attend a meeting of light painters that Mafu was hosting. Suddenly I ran into artists like Tom Hill, Dennis Smith, Sam Mass, Mart Barras, Rob Turney and many more, whom I had previously only known from social networks.
It was a bit like being in a dream world and yet it was real. The whole evening I had the opportunity to watch these exceptional artists live and take away a lot of impressions. The next day at the Light up event it went on lively. So much knowledge and creativity in one place, I think you do not experience so often. It was a great experience that I really enjoyed.
5. What or who inspires you regularly?
Many things in everyday life inspire me from time to time. Sometimes I see something on the Internet or other media, which lays the foundation for a picture idea. Sometimes it has nothing to do with light art at first glance. I have always been a big movie fan and sometimes draw parts of my ideas from movie scenes or movie posters.
To list people who inspire me regularly without forgetting anyone is not so easy. Especially since the genre “lightpainting” has so many “subcategories”.
Tom Hill’s paintings have always inspired me from the beginning, his complex light figures and orbs are simply fascinating to me.
As I have been working on the topic of Camera Rotation/Kinetic in combination with lens and tripod changes for some time now, I would definitely like to mention the artists Tim Gamble, Mart Barras and Chris Thompson from the UK, who regularly leave me open-mouthed in amazement with their creativity. And to stay with the theme, I would like to mention Sven Gerard, Olivier Thermes and Hugo Baptista, who have inspired me profoundly and influenced my development in this genre in particular.
I could continue the list at will, but that would go beyond the scope. For me, there are many great artists around the globe who inspire me.
6. Which light painting tool will you build or buy next?
As I mentioned before, I’m not that talented with my hands. However, I would like to build (or have built) a rotation tool with a motor that would allow me to automatically rotate a blade or similar, for example. That would simplify my work with rotation pictures.
7. Do you work more spontaneously or do you plan your pictures in advance down to the smallest detail?
I’ll put it this way, it depends on the idea for the picture. When I experiment with new patterns, tools or other things, there is no planning at first. I first explore what can be done with them. When I go to a location, I plan my pictures beforehand, but that doesn’t mean that one or two ideas won’t pop into my head on the spot. The actual picture is planned with me. What tools, what colors, how many tripods and lenses are needed, etc. it also depends on what techniques will be used in the image.When I combine several scenes in one image, I think test images to determine the correct exposure settings and some planning are urgently needed. However, I also always leave myself a little leeway to spontaneously incorporate an effect that may not have been planned that way. You can never plan 100% anyway, because there is always something you haven’t thought of before.
When I’m on the road with other light painters, where it’s also about exchange and fun, I plan less, because many ideas come spontaneously on the spot.
8. Do you have a concept, a common thread, for your light paintings?
Difficult to say, I think I already have a kind of concept, but I don’t want to commit myself to a style. I have my main focus at the moment, but I also want to explore other genres in light painting, possibly combine with others, etc. After almost 3 years of “experience” in lightpainting, I would not claim to have developed a certain style of my own yet. I am still in the discovery phase, which will continue for a long time. Lightpainting is such a big field, which I would like to discover, to gain experience and knowledge.
Basically there are a few things that are important to me. If I implement a picture idea, where it is about symmetry, for example, then the result must also be accordingly. If the result is not yet as I imagined it, the picture is repeated until I like it. If I make a certain effort to find a location, I want to use it and include it in the picture, otherwise I can stay at home in the dark garden and save myself the journey.
9. Which three other light painters would you like to work with?
Only three? Difficult decision, because I can think of more than three artists I would like to work with.
One big wish would be to work with Tim Gamble and the other creative minds (Tom, Chris, Mart, etc.) from the UK.
Since I’m currently addicted to Camera Rotation/Kinetic, I’d love to start a collaboration with Sven Gerard and Gunnar Heilmann from Berlin.
Dennis Berka from NRW would be a third wish candidate, because I like his fantasy and sci-fi images very much and am fascinated by the implementation.
There are many other artists with whom I would like to spend a creative night. So far I had less the opportunity to start a collaboration with other artists. So if you are interested, feel free to contact me.
10. Which are your three best pictures?
Oh dear the most difficult question at the end. The “best” picture is always relative and lies in the eye of the beholder. I’ll try to choose three images that I personally like:
This picture is from 2018, so from my early days. Created in a lost place at the Grabowsee near Berlin. Together with Martin, a fellow artist from Salzgitter. It was my first lightpainting night in a Lost Place and has an emotional value for me.
The night in which the picture was taken was a bit crazy. I was once again alone in my urban forest and wanted to take a picture with a tripod change. After a few hours I had the orb in the place where I wanted it. However, without me as a model in the picture. I went home and upon closer inspection I didn’t like the picture at all. So I got on my bike again the same night and went into the forest to repeat the picture, this time with the model. So the proportions came much better to the validity. Sometimes you just can’t see the forest for the trees.
This picture is one of my series with feathers. The idea to try light painting with feathers came up in the winter in a bad weather phase. I like to loiter times in the 1-euro junk stores and look at what materials you could use for pictures. Since I noticed the colorful craft feathers, where I immediately had image ideas in my head. In addition, feathers are nice and small, so I could also Camera rotation in limited space in my apartment. The special feature here is the rotation over different axes, which is not so easy at first as a self-taught.
Finde more of Stepko’s art here:
Thank you for the interview and I wish you and all readers always good light.