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|Category:||Landscape and Travel|
Photographing Light Trails - Did you wonder how people get car lights to streak through their images? Well here's your answer.
- DSLR – Need to use long exposures so need a camera that lets you control the exposure times.
- Tripod – Using long exposures so working hand-held will only result in shots full of shake.
- Wireless remote control/remote shutter cables – Handy but not essential. You can use the camera's self-timer to stop you shaking the shot at the start.
- Lens hood – Handy for cutting out ambient light.
- Warm clothing and a flask of tea/coffee – You can be out in the cold for a while!
Technique:Basically you need to find a spot at night where vehicles will pass under/by you with their lights on. You then use a long exposure to turn their lights into long streaks of colour. Using the BULB setting will keep the shutter open until you take your finger off the shutter button (this is when a release is handy as you can keep the shutter open without having to touch the camera) but if your camera doesn't have this feature, just experiment until you find a shutter speed that gives you the results you're looking for.
Time of dayJust before the sun has set is a good time to experiment with light trails as there's more traffic which means more chances to get the shot right and there will be plenty of ambient light around which will add more interest to your images.
LocationObviously, you need to be next to or at least able to see a road from your chosen location. Get up high and shoot a wide shot that includes buildings as their lights switch on and the traffic moves by or out of the city, find a spot that looks over a road that winds down the side of a hill so car lights are turned into sweeping s shapes. The light trails can be used as a line to lead the eye through the image to a point of interest which could be a town, city or building glowing in the background. Roundabouts will give you circular patterns of light while crossroads will create lines that criss-cross and move around each other in various directions.
Some lenses will keep searching for a focus point forever in dark conditions so to get your focus locked correctly you may need to switch to manual focus.
There's no absolute figure we can say to use for this technique as how much light's around and how fast the cars are moving will alter what shutter speed you need. However, to get started, set your ISO to 100, aperture to f/8 and this should help you get an exposure that's around 10-30 seconds long. If the shot's underexposed open up the aperture and just make it smaller if it's too bright. Try not to go too wide with your apertures though as this will result in more of the shot appearing out of focus. If you find the light trails to be too short you'll need to use a longer shutter speed to extend them through your shot. Keep an eye out for spots of light such as street lamps overexposing too.
Apertures and Shutter Speeds
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