My friend has six acres of property pressed up against Topanga State Park in California. I visited there in September, eager to create a spooky ghost photo for the holiday using a form of photography called “light writing.”

It doesn’t take much equipment. You need some cheap lights and a camera with manual control. A tripod or stable surface is helpful too, of course.

Inexpensive lights

I used EL Wire, otherwise known as electroluminescent wire. This is a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor that produces light when an alternating current from a battery is put through it. It’s very portable and very inexpensive.

I also grabbed a red LED head lamp out of my backpack.

Eerie swing set

I set up around an old rusty swing set. The setting, after all, had to be spooky.

Here’s how I did it

I set up my Nikon D610 (B&H | Amazon) on a tripod and focused on the swing set, since that’s where the ghost was going to be. In manual mode, I held the shutter open. Then the fun began.

Holding a white EL wire by the swing, I activated it and waved it back and forth gently to create the head, arms and body of the ghost that would register in the camera. I then took my LED head lamp and activated it briefly two times — one for each eye, where I had just “placed” the ghostly head.

After that, I illuminated the swing set and the trees and grass just a little bit, just to give it a little bit of texture. I did this with a ProtoMachines LED2 using a warm white light, but you can do this with any LED flashlight.

After that, I simply walked over and shut the camera off. The total exposure was 182 seconds.