Either as protagonists photo or as an additional element in other outlets (as may be the pictures of night sights) the light trails or Photographing light trails are a part of the high visual impact that we can play in our photos relatively quickly Following necessary recommendations.
As you may know, the mechanics to achieve this effect comes from the technique of prolonged exposure, use the same that is used in other types of shots as the light painting is the most similar. Thus, looking for a difference with this technique we could say that it is not about using an extra light to recreate something, but to capture the light that exists in the scene and that, thanks to prolonged exposure, we can immortalize as stelae or traces of light forming Lines and shapes very attractive.
Photographing light: The necessary equipment
For this type of photos, the essential elements are the same as those we already know about light painting or night photography. Namely: A camera that allows us to make exposures of several seconds (with Bulb mode preferably, although it is not necessary), a stable tripod (or failing where to place the camera and that does not move) and a remote trigger ( Although there is the alternative of using the camera timer).
As additional elements, it would not hurt to have battery replacement (photo prolonged exposure consumes a lot of battery) a neutral density filter to help us exposure even longer ( when there is a certain amount of light in the scene ), And a parasol to prevent parasitic light from reaching the target.
Photographing light: Choose the site well
We already said at the outset that this kind of effect could result in different ways. In principle it may be that capturing light trails is your primary purpose and so do not worry too much about the frame, but if you go a little further, you will realize the effect itself can be repetitive. Thus, traces of light in motion are much more attractive if you use them to “adorn” ( the eye that we put it in quotes) and excellent composition.
So the best advice does not let yourself be blinded by the lights (never better said) and take great care of the composition of the image so that it has an interest in the whole and not just the light trails. Also, try to imagine what the final result will be with the lights to be able to place them in the right place of the photo according to the chosen perspective. A good example is the one you have below where traffic lights “adorn” the typical London bus to achieve a more attractive image.
Photographing light: Closed diaphragm
Then adjust the diaphragm to approximately ƒ8 or greater to have a good depth of field (which is most advisable), to obtain a good performance of the objective and, above all, to compensate for the prolonged exposure that we are going to do. If you find it more comfortable, you can place the camera in Speed Priority mode so that it is the one that will automatically adjust the diaphragm (but always making sure that the ISO is kept to a minimum) according to the speed That you choose.
Photographing light: Playing with speed
This is undoubtedly the individual parameter for this type of photography, the primary element of which we will have to play to see the final result. As always, everything depends on the situation, but we could say that to achieve light trails we would have to start from shutter speeds from about six seconds.
As you always have to do tests and, depending on the results, extend this time until you consider it necessary. If it is a matter of capturing the lights of the lights of the cars that pass through a great avenue, it is evident that you will not be able to control some vehicles that pass in each shot, so experimenting is the only option.
Photographing light: If the results are not good
If the stelae are not long enough or you still see the cars in the photo (following the example we mentioned before), it is evident that you need to make an even longer exposure. If the problem is that you have already closed the diaphragm to the maximum and lower the speed you are overexposing the image; then you would have to resort to the neutral density filter mentioned above.
The problem is that the flow of vehicles is irregular, and you are already doing a long enough exposure (say 30 seconds), you can always use the trick to cover the lens with a card or some dark element in the moments when they do not pass Cars, in the style of how it’s done in the photo of fireworks between exploding and exploding.
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