Before I knew anything about photography I was always hugely impressed by photos depicting long exposures, those colourful trails of light, they seemed so complicated and felt to me, incredibly out of my reach. That is until I was shown how, and realised that for the impressive results, light trails through long exposures are probably one of the more straightforward aspects of photography. Preparation and some basic equipment are required and like anything in photography, the light trails only form part of the story – composition is crucial!
Light trails are achieved by a moving object in the low light of the evening and for extra effect you can target double decker buses instead of cars or vans as you get two sets for your efforts. I managed to capture just that after setting my tripod up in the middle of Waterloo Bridge one cold night – I waited a while to get a bus on either side, but eventually managed to get the shot.
So, to do this, you need a dSLR or a point and shoot that lets you switch to aperture priority setting. You also need a tripod or the side of a wall if it allows for the correct and still positioning of your camera.
Set up your camera on the tripod, make sure the ISO is set to 100 for crystal clear images, set the camera to AV (Canon) or A (Nikon) to indicate aperture priority and you can let the camera decide on the shutter speed depending on the light. Choose your vantage point (around 50 to 100 meters from a bus stop for example) and you can then time the shutter as you see the bus / or other light source heading past your frame. The results are very satisfying but you need to ensure you don’t get too wowed by the immediate results and cast a critical eye on your framing to truly stand out photos. Good spots around London are opposite St Paul’s (see my efforts below):
As is over the Millennium Bridge for cool shimmering water effects of the river Thames: (and if you are lucky you may even get light trails from passing boats).
Add a dash of Photoshop and you can really play about with the reflections for a truly effective result! 🙂
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!