Lights in the Night

David Bumann reveals mountains in the darkness of night and in the bright glow of pyrotechnics and light effects. His images, taken with long exposure times and often a great deal of effort, are both unusual and impressive. And he captures them with ZEISS lenses.

Look at David Bumann‘s pictures and you think of photo montage: Brightly lit snow fields — in the middle of the night? Illuminated railroad bridges — in remote valleys? But that impression deceives. The the snow fields and bridges really are lit up.

EOS 5D Mark II, Distagon T* 2,8/21, f/5,6, 10 sec, ISO 100
Allalin: Saas-Fee, October 30, 2011, 00:15, illuminated with spotlights from the Saas-Fee cableways
Full resolution on Flickr

Bumann practices ‘light art’ in the great outdoors, an art form that often goes hand-in-hand with a huge logistical effort. As light sources he uses pyrotechnics, large headlights or a very bright LED light attached to his forehead.

“I’ve been using ZEISS lenses for a long time. I started photographing seriously around four and a half years ago and bought a full-format SLR, and then the Distagon T* 3,5/18 a year later. Today I also use the Distagon T* 2,8/21, and I currently have the Distagon T* 2,8/15 on loan. With all ZEISS lenses I can always be sure that the quality is just right, for both the imaging and the workmanship. I often work under extreme conditions, but that doesn’t affect the lenses. Nothing ever freezes and the lenses rarely get fogged up. Everything is very robust. And since I photograph at night, the exact mechanical focusing plays an important role.”

EOS 5D Mark II, Distagon T* 2,8/15, f/11, 15 sec, ISO 100
Gebidem Reservoir, dam wall. Length of crown: 300 meters. Height of construction: 120 meters. Blatten near Naters. Effect: Special lighting, March 14, 2014, 11:50 pm
Full resolution on Flickr

Bumann‘s unique type of photography, which he does as a side job, began as a hobby. “On an ice climbing tour I took some long-time exposures while rappelling, and that created spiral formations. That’s how I got into light art.”

He started working with a pyrotechnics company and was continuously developing new projects with the aim not only of taking pictures, but also composing with light and effects. “It’s about actively playing with the light and adding my contribution as an artist. With my long-time exposure shots, I try to get the best from the different light situations. Take this picture of the dam wall: the extreme angular field of the Distagon T* 2,8/15, which was used to take this shot, is just fantastic.“

EOS 5D Mark II, Distagon T* 3,5/18, f/3,5, 20 sec, ISO 200
Test with forehead lamp: Skeidarasandur with the Lomagnupur Mountain, Iceland, August 7, 2011, 3:20 am
Full resolution on Flickr

In addition to his camera and ZEISS lenses, another important tool in Bumann’s work is an LED forehead-lamp with a capacity of 1500 lumen. This lets him achieve surprising results.

EOS 5D Mark II, Distagon T* 3,5/18, f/3,5, 10 min, ISO 100
Bietschtal viaduct: Bietschtal, Valais, December 30, 2011, 11 pm
Full resolution on Flickr

”For this image, I walked around the bridge with my head lamp on. You can’t see me in the picture because my back is facing the camera and the lamp is shining away from me. The construction is illuminated, but the light source itself isn’t visible.” This type of mobile light control, combined with a very long exposure time of 10 minutes, created a soft illumination of the bridge without causing strong cast shadows.

EOS 5D Mark II, Distagon T* 3,5/18, f/3,5, 25 sec, ISO 1000
“Patrouille des Glaciers“, Zermatt, behind Herbrigg, direction of the Matterhorn, May 28, 2012, 1:24 am
Full resolution on Flickr

The lights from a passing train inspired Bumann to create another unusual image of a ski mountaineering race by the Swiss Army called “Patrouille des Glaciers”. “The race always starts in the middle of the night in May. That’s why the meadows are already green. In the foreground you see the ‘caravan’ of ski mountaineers who have left behind traces of light created by their head lamps. I also illuminated the surrounding area with my LED lamp.”

At the moment, Bumann is working on a project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Valais joining the Swiss Confederation („13 étolies au sommet“). Thirteen mountains in the canton – one for each district – will be illuminated with pyrotechnics. Bumann will scout out the best locations by helicopter. Alpine guides will then be responsible for installing the fireworks. All 13 mountains – including the Aiguille de la Tsa pictured above – will then be lit up simultaneously.


About David Bumann

When David Bumann is not illuminating mountains, he attends lectures at the University of Bern, where he is studying geography and biology. Nature, the natural sciences and photography are three important aspects of his life that complement each other seamlessly. With his light art projects he enriches anniversaries and other events, and tourist attractions.

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1 Comment

  1. hi david,

    a wonderful article about the work into the night.
    stunning pictures and i know how much effort it is to get those results from the night.
    you're right, reliable technology is essential,
    but the end result stands and falls with the visual idea.

    both can be seen in your images in perfection!

    many greetings from the north sea coast


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