30.08.19 — Journal

Illuminating Valencia

As repeatedly mentioned in my last blog post, one of the highlights of my trip to Valencia was the second evening spent with my friend Roberto, during which we set up and messed around with with a load of lights! We installed the spectacle in the back patio of his grandparents’ house, and I was sure to take as many photos as possible to document the evening – so prepare for a very visual post!

I previously touched on the fact that Roberto has also been fascinated with lighting from a young age, and so he has also amassed an impressive collection of lights and lighting paraphernalia throughout the years. Despite this rare similarity, the two of us have a slightly different approach: I have always been intrigued by designing a lighting ‘show’, and have therefore collected a range of disco/theatre lighting; whereas Roberto is more interested by Christmas lighting and the technical side of the whole affair.

This means that, to kick off the evening’s shenanigans, a real treat laid in store for me: boxes upon boxes of lightbulbs! Some of these were very old and undoubtably very rare, and I could barely contain my excitement as I took on the job of opening the boxes, testing the bulbs, and then sorting them ready to be put to use.

Four rows of lightbulbs atop a table are sorted into their respective colours: green, yellow, red, and blue.
A box of lightbulbs of various colours.

This gorgeous box of coloured bulbs made me somewhat emotional.

A vintage box of lightbulbs.

As I spent my time gleefully testing lightbulbs in a corner, Roberto put the final touches to the system of cables we would use to hang up the lights, and then we set about installing a custom system the he had created. This consisted of two strings of what otherwise seemed like standard lightbulb strings (like this), but with a difference: a homemade dimmer sat in the centre of each string.

I’d love to dive into the technical details of how this works, but for this blog post I’ll just summarise that it meant that we could control every fourth light. This allowed us to use four colours of bulbs and control each colour individually along the string, something we achieved by using the same DMX system I used for my K’next Castle and Autokara projects!

A blue lightbulb sits against an old plaster wall.

Some of the lights had come all the way from the US.

Once we’d set up all the lights and connected everything together, we fried up chorizo and potato that we’d bought, throwing together a dish that we invented on the spot. This we then ate whilst waiting for the sky to fall fully dark, popping some music on and enjoying a glass of wine as the evening wore on.

A frying pan full of chorizo and potato.
A green lightbulb.
A red lightbulb.

Things really became interesting once we were plunged into near complete darkness, with only the moonlight illuminating part of the patio when all the lights were switched off. It was then when we could finally appreciate our afternoon’s efforts – after a slight hiccup regarding the voltage transformers needed to power the 110V US lights (in Europe we use 240V), that is.

A patio at night illuminated by a web of multicoloured string lights which decorate the walls.

The web of lights illuminated the remnants of our evening meal.

A web of lights on a wall sits behind a table littered with bottles and leftover food.
A string of red, green, yellow, and blue lights runs diagonally up a wall.
A red lightbulb against an old plaster wall and above an open doorway.
An old frosted-white lightbulb with cracks and holes appearing in the white paint used to create the frosted effect.

Anyone who knows me will, after having seen the photos so far, know that I was absolutely in my element here. To those who don’t know me so intimately: this is what I dream of doing every day for the rest of my life, however strange and niche it may be!

There’s plenty more photos, though, so I’d better crack on! You’ll notice in the photo below that we also integrated two LED spotlights into the system, which are positioned just in front of a black hole which is actually the access to the loft I explored in my previous post.

The corner of the patio decorated with lights.

One photo taken looking up at the loft, one taken looking down from the loft.

Looking down on the illuminated patio from above.
My silhouette showing the halo effect of having three colours of light (red, green, and blue) projected from slightly different angles.
A translucent green bulb is illuminated by a purple light.
A speaker on a chair, with walls full of fairy lights in the background.

As it grew late, Roberto headed off for a shower, and so I had half an hour to mess around with the lights by myself. I sat myself behind the DMX control panel, popped on some atmospheric music, and engaged in my favourite activity in the whole world: lighting design. This consisted of mixing colours to create moods, making the lights ‘dance’ in sequence with the music, and general buffoonery such as flashing everything on and off at once. It was bliss.

A panoramic shot of the patio decorated with lights.

I really cannot stress how beautiful it was to be sat in good company, disconnected from the outside world, and surrounded by lights.

A closeup of an orange bulb, with various out-of-focus multicolour lights in the background.

I really cannot stress how beautiful it was to be sat in good company, disconnected from the outside world, and surrounded by lights. This evening, along with the rest of the tomfoolery that we engaged in during my short stay in Valencia and Caudete de las Fuentes, made for a truly blissful holiday of relaxation and contemplation.

Once again, then, I feel obliged to say a huge thanks to Roberto and his family for being so generous as to let me stay in their flat and family home. We’d talked about meeting up in Valencia to do all this for some time, but actually being there in the middle of nowhere and reconnecting with a childhood passion made for four days of chilled enjoyment beyond anything I had imagined.

That said, I hope you liked the photos, and I look forward to bringing you all my next blog post, which may just turn out to be something a little bit different to the usual programming – I’ve yet to decide. If not, I’ll be back soon for more updates on another crazy summer in my busy life!