The scribble pole is a really simple tool for creating some interesting effects in long exposure photography. It is basically a fishing pole with a high power LED instead of the more traditional hook and bait arrangement. I originally created this tool with the idea of swinging the LED above a body of water while periodically switching it on and off. The hope was to create the illusion of several fireflies hanging out by the water, but after some trial shots I began to lose interest in that effect and wondered what is would look like to just swing the LED about like crazy. This crazy swinging resulted in the photos you see here, I would have liked to take more but where I live the weather prevents many outdoor activities. So instead I will tell you how I made the scribble pole so you may make your own and get creative!
P.s. If you do make this, I'd love to see the shots you take! :)
Step 1: The Stuff You'll Need
The scribble pole is fairly simple to make and the parts are easy to find at any hardware store. To make the pole you will need:
PVC pipe - I used a length of overflow pipe, it's cheap and a sensible diameter to work with. It is also useful because over flow pipe is often sold with connectors which are also needed.
PVC Pipe connectors - These are not absolutely necessary but it does help with transporting the scribble pole if you are able to dismantle it. Adding connectors means you can pull it apart like a tent pole and easily move it about.
Bell Wire - Or any twin stranded wire. Doorbell wire is cheap, lengthy, and robust.
High Power LED - The LED I used is a 1W white LED, because of the high power of this LED it's possible to run it directly from 2 AA batteries without a resistor, if you select an LED with a lower power consumption, be aware you will probably need to introduce a resistor to prevent it from frying.
Battery pack - 2x AA batteries
A Couple of Nuts - Or something to add a bit of weight.
A Switch - I used a tactile button so the LED would only be on while I was holding the button. From experience I would suggest something a little more robust as the tiny button was a bit tricky to use.
A Saw to cut the PVC pipe
Hot Glue Gun
Step 2: Making the Pole
This part is super easy. Simply cut your PVC pipe into equal sections, roughly a foot and a half in length. The length is not massively important, just remember to cut one more sections than the number of connectors you have. I had three connectors so I cut my pipe into four sections. The sections of pipe fit together like assembling a tent pole.
Congratulations, you have made the heart and soul of the Scribble pole.... the pole.
Let's move on to the electronics...
Step 3: LED.... on a String
This step has a few more parts to it.
I started by unwinding my doorbell wire and splitting one end. I stripped each of the split ends as shown in the photo BUT before soldering them to the LED, I threaded two steel nuts onto the wire and slid them out of the way.
The next thing I did was to solder in the LED. It does not matter at this point which way you solder the LED as long as one wire goes to a pas labelled (-) while the other to a (+) pad. We will figure out the polarity when we connect the batteries in the next step.
Once the LED is secure bring the steel nuts to it and glue the whole thing up with a hot glue gun. You should now be left with a weighted LED on a long wire
Step 4: Add the Battery (and Switch)
Once you have your LED on a wire, find the other end of the wire and thread it through the PVC pole. Split and strip the ends as before. Now we need to determine which is our positive and which is our negative wire. To do this I loaded the battery pack with 2 AA batteries and very briefly touched the battery pack wires to the LED wires, only for a split second. If I saw the LED flash then I had the connections correct. Once you know which way to connect the wires mark them so you don't forget. I marked one wire with black tape to show that it is supposed to connect to the black battery pack wire.
Solder the circuit together, don't forget to add the switch in so you can easily control the LED. I finished by taping the battery pack and switch to the end of the PVC pole, dismantling the pole, and wrapping the LED wire around the bundle.
To use the tool, simply set your camera up on a tripod and set it to bulb mode (plus any other setting you might want). When the shutter is open, swing the pole any way you want and use the switch to control when the LED is on or off. Try different ways of swinging to get different effects :)