Tutorial Photography Guide: Light Trails

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#1
MWHCVT submitted a new resource:

Photography Guide: Light Trails - Photography Guide: Light Trails

Photography Guide: Light Trails


Just an introduction to me and the reason for this guide. I have been interested in taking photos for a number of years but have been taking photography seriously for since 2008 and invested in my DSLR in 2009. I love to experiment with light trails and take every opportunity I can to experiment with light trails and long exposures at every opportunity. This guide has been written with a mind to those that are new to long exposures/light trails.

So what...
Read more about this resource...
 
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#4
Thanks for the guide just what I've been looking for.

Only 20 minutes from east midland too .
Your welcome, What part of the East Midlands, as you will see from the EMA photo I am not adverse to trips out of Warwickshire.

Matt
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#6
Hi Matt , I live near Burton upon Trent so not to far from east midland .
I like Burton and have been a few times as it is where my sister did her nurse training but haven't been back up there in years.

You should go up to EMA to do light trails its quite good, I would invite you to join me there some time but as a rule I only tend to know an hour or two in advance of when I am going to go, it is all subject to wind and weather conditions for me

Matt
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#7
Some good tips on there,i always shoot manual so quite used to that,really just the exposure times i was not too sure of,thanks.:)(y)
 
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#10
<bookmark>


great guide, Matthew - gonna be trying this when I can get someone to join me (not safe to go alone, ya know) - gonna shoot over the A30 in Devon so... watch this space :D


<don't have a trigger tho... 'tis on the list of "to gets" - that seems to be growing each day I come on here ;)>
 
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#11
What white balance do you reccomend?
Ollie, in regards to white balance this is something that I normally leave to the camera in that I normally use Auto White Balance. In areas where there is a lot of yellow street lighting I personally would look to go for a tungsten lighting setting however under certain conditions you may look to go for a custom setting.

<bookmark>


great guide, Matthew - gonna be trying this when I can get someone to join me (not safe to go alone, ya know) - gonna shoot over the A30 in Devon so... watch this space :D


<don't have a trigger tho... 'tis on the list of "to gets" - that seems to be growing each day I come on here ;)>
Thanks, I hope that it helps those that read it, I nearly always take someone with me when out with the camera doing light trails or long exposures as it is nice to have someone to talk to and some areas a bit of safety of a second person is actually a good thing

For me a trigger is an essential piece of kit and the beauty of if is that unlike most things associated with our hobby/profession they can actually be had very reasonably £10-15

I look forward to seeing your results, don't forget to checkout and add locations to the light trails map

http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=284127 started by Ben (lolage)

It is a great resource for us all I think that there is already a location added to the map in your area

Should anyone have any questions don't hesitate to post them or send me a PM and I shall endeavor to respond as fast as possible.

Matt
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#12
Nice guide, Matthew. I live about 15 minutes away from Stansted Airport and the M11 so I'm hoping to use them as locations to have a go at light trails.
As I'm completely new to photography I'll be using your guide for reference. :)
 
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#13
Mandoo said:
Nice guide, Matthew. I live about 15 minutes away from Stansted Airport and the M11 so I'm hoping to use them as locations to have a go at light trails.
As I'm completely new to photography I'll be using your guide for reference. :)
Thanks, hope that you have fun with light trails and remember to post any questions you may have

Matt
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#14
Excellent, just what I've been looking for.

Do you know of any books on the subject with sample images?
 
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#15
Excellent, just what I've been looking for.

Do you know of any books on the subject with sample images?
I'm not sure there are any specific books for light trails/long exposures because most of my experience is self taught and from reading forums such as TP, however if you want to look at images, (Shameless Self Plug) I have a set of roughly 200 light trails @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwhcvt/sets/72157622801523928/ I keep all my Exif info intact so this will guide you on settings

There are also some great groups of flickr that you can view light trails

http://www.flickr.com/groups/nightontheroad/pool/with/4978570318/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/26591815@N00/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/roadsbynight/

Please feel free to ask any questions either on this thread or via PM I am always happy to help.

Where are you located?

Matt
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#17
What a detailed guide - thanks for sharing your information.
No problem at all, remember to post any questions that you may have..

Also welcome to TP :wave: :wave:

Matt
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#19
thanks for the guide, very good.

i will try and brush up and take your points on board.

Good idea with the plane landing or taking off. interesting.
No problems, I hope that it proves useful, please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

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#20
MWHCVT said:
Your welcome, What part of the East Midlands, as you will see from the EMA photo I am not adverse to trips out of Warwickshire.

Matt
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Fantastic guide and love the EMA image. I am gonna head down there as I'm only in Ripley and as I am new to to photography would love to hive this a go! Cheers Matt!
 
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#21
Fantastic guide and love the EMA image. I am gonna head down there as I'm only in Ripley and as I am new to to photography would love to hive this a go! Cheers Matt!
Thanks Andrew, I am pleased that you have found it useful, with the EMA images you will need to use a ultra high f/stop depending on the len's that I am using I will have it almost completely closed up using around f/35-40, the reason for this is because the plains lights are extremely bright so the image is likely to get very blown out.

In my guide you will see there is a link to a light trails map run by Ben and myself on here you will find numerous locations for light trails including EMA with the location that I use pinpointed on the map, I would suggest that you visit quite late at night because it seems the most activity is between 2200-0200.

Feel free to PM ref EMA, and I will dig out some more info for you.

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#22
Hi Matt,

I have been experimenting with light trail pictures lately and to be honest no having much luck. In most of the pictures the lights coming towards you seem to turn in to a large white blob as opposed to actual trails of light.

Any help on what I am doing wrong would be appreciated! Hopefully pic below is working so you can see what I mean. Was taken on a 30sec delay and annoyingly missed the 2 Police cars trails coming towards me in the large blob of white.

Great guide by the way.

 
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#23
Hi Matt,

I have been experimenting with light trail pictures lately and to be honest no having much luck. In most of the pictures the lights coming towards you seem to turn in to a large white blob as opposed to actual trails of light.

Any help on what I am doing wrong would be appreciated! Hopefully pic below is working so you can see what I mean. Was taken on a 30sec delay and annoyingly missed the 2 Police cars trails coming towards me in the large blob of white.

Great guide by the way.
Hi Dave, I have had a look at the Exif info and it shows that you were using an aperture of f/4 this means that your len's was wide open letting in Lot's of light, this is the reason for the massive amount of over exposure (White Blob) if you make the aperture a lot smaller, in the region of f/8-16 you will see a marked improvement, it is possible to use f/4 some times but it needs to be really dark and in the correct conditions traffic wise but these are situations that you will pick up with practice.

I find that a great f/stop value for this style of photography is f/22 the opening image shown above (Rivers of Light) is a 90 second exposure shot at f/22, as you will see this has nice crisp trails.

I do sympathise over the missing of the police cars, it took me over 12 months to get my first frame with blue's and two's and then I managed to get 5 frames in about 15 minutes.

It looks from your image that you have a really great location to practice light trails so keep persevering at it will come to you, there is a certain satisfaction that you will get when you get a really good trail picture, the best time is just after sunset, because then you also have the interest in the sky.

Hope this helps, and I look forward to seeing your results. Where abouts in Hertfordshire are you?

Matt
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#24
Thanks for the reply Matt, still getting my head around what F stop suits what kind of picture so all help greatly received. Be sure that I will be out practising as soon as I can and posting anything good.

I live in Welwyn Garden City so handy for the M25 and A1 for this kind of picture, the location in my picture is just North of WGC on the A1 which is always busy so hopefully will capture something good sooner rather than later.

Thanks again.

Dave
 
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#26
This is superb, can't wait to get out and try this on Sunday!
Thank you Adam, I hope that you will post a link to your results, where abouts are you based?

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#27
I'm dying to have a try at this. Gonna write down the info for f/stops & delays & give it a go hopefully tomorrow . Thanks for all the info Matt (y)
I only have a tamron 70-300 lens or a Nikor 18-55 ,tamron better choice for this style of shot ? Don't have a shutter releasec able but can set to 30 sec delay I think . Only going to the local dual carriage way & will be at the side of the road as no bridges around.Don't feel comfortable venturing alone with my gear in the dark to the local motorway bridge so just hope it works!
 
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#28
I'm dying to have a try at this. Gonna write down the info for f/stops & delays & give it a go hopefully tomorrow . Thanks for all the info Matt (y)
I only have a tamron 70-300 lens or a Nikor 18-55 ,tamron better choice for this style of shot ? Don't have a shutter release cable but can set to 30 sec delay I think . Only going to the local dual carriage way & will be at the side of the road as no bridges around.Don't feel comfortable venturing alone with my gear in the dark to the local motorway bridge so just hope it works!
 
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#29
I'm dying to have a try at this. Gonna write down the info for f/stops & delays & give it a go hopefully tomorrow . Thanks for all the info Matt (y)
I only have a tamron 70-300 lens or a Nikor 18-55 ,tamron better choice for this style of shot ? Don't have a shutter releasec able but can set to 30 sec delay I think . Only going to the local dual carriage way & will be at the side of the road as no bridges around.Don't feel comfortable venturing alone with my gear in the dark to the local motorway bridge so just hope it works!
Hi Lynne,

I would suggest the best len's would be the 18-55 will be the best len's for light trails as I don't think that you will be able to get a wide enough view from the 70-300 I use a 17-85 for nearly all my lights trails and rarely go over the 17-25mm range.

I know your feeling about the going to a dark motorway bridge in the middle of nowhere, I hope that you have a good time and stay safe.

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#30
This is one of my favourites from about a year ago on the A1 at Great Ponton, it makes the car look as if it's braking sharply but unfortunately in light trails white will always be more prominent than red.
The only worrying thing i'd say is you get toots from drivers thinking your manning a speed camera !!

 
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#33
I found that just playing with the aperture and shutter speed on full manual gave me the best results. Also, I had forgotten to turn off the camera things like Active D Lighting and Auto ISO, but soon fixed that!

I settled somewhere around f16-f22 and I was just guessing the shutter speed, I think about 15-25s or so depending on how much traffic I saw. Would have to check the exifs.

Haven't posted the ones I got in here but they're in my gallery or in a thread in general photo sharing.
 
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#34
I found that just playing with the aperture and shutter speed on full manual gave me the best results. Also, I had forgotten to turn off the camera things like Active D Lighting and Auto ISO, but soon fixed that!

I settled somewhere around f16-f22 and I was just guessing the shutter speed, I think about 15-25s or so depending on how much traffic I saw. Would have to check the exifs.

Haven't posted the ones I got in here but they're in my gallery or in a thread in general photo sharing.
This sounds very much like my first visit to a motorway to do light trails, I had read online how to do them but all that I found as guides were basic and not very user friendly hence my reason to write this guide.

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#35
Hi Matt

Just been & taken my 1st light trails picture & grinning like an idiot:D

Tried a few outside work at the edge of a dual carriage to get the idea ,then got brave & went to a bridge ,away from where people tend to walk .Felt a bit worried so only took a couple then legged it back to the car:LOL:

Nowhere near your standard but happy none the less .Only had max 30 sec exposure but have ordered a remote release

Would appreciate your advice on how to improve (once you've stopped laughing at my attempt !)



It's addictive ain't it !

many thanks,Lynne
 
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#37
Hi Matt

Just been & taken my 1st light trails picture & grinning like an idiot:D

Tried a few outside work at the edge of a dual carriage to get the idea ,then got brave & went to a bridge ,away from where people tend to walk .Felt a bit worried so only took a couple then legged it back to the car:LOL:

Nowhere near your standard but happy none the less .Only had max 30 sec exposure but have ordered a remote release

Would appreciate your advice on how to improve (once you've stopped laughing at my attempt !)



It's addictive ain't it !

many thanks,Lynne
Meant to say ,it's not the ost interesting stretch of road so bends & or junctions are on the list for next time
Firstly Lynne I am not going to laugh at anyone's first attempt at a light trail, and I am pleased that you found enjoyment in capturing them, even now with close to 300 light trails under my belt I still grin from ear to ear when I get a really good one.

Now your example posted, it has a lot going for it, the location is good, yes there are no junctions or bends, but it is a really nice straight road, this means that you have a really nice prospective effect to the trails.

Down to the settings.

You have use f/25, ISO100 and it was a 15 second exposure.

Overall I like the settings, they are similar to what I have used in the past, however the image is very dark this is partially down to the very small aperture f/25 and the fact that it was a 15 second exposure, given that fact there looks to be little ambient lighting (ie the area was very dark), I would have recommended a aperture in the region of f/10-14 and also tried to take it to the full 30 seconds available, other than this it is a very good first attempt.

It would have been nice to have some colours in the sky so maybe try and shoot a little earlier, but I am all to aware of work commitments etc.

also I would have cropped the image slightly, as you have a railing in the bottom right of the image, but the first time that I went out I did just the same with the bridge railings.

I hope that you don't mind but have given it a little bit of a edit, just a crop and lightened it a little will remove it if you wish.


DSC_5059 by mwhcvt, on Flickr

Just out of interest where abouts are you based?

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#38
Thanks for you kind comments Matt & no,by all means leave the edited one on, I will check back to it as a reference point for the future(y)

I've taken on board what you say about settings ,will adjust & play about more next time . Hoping to get out saturday a little earlier in the evening and with the remote release cable if it arrives.
I had to ask on the forum earlier about the "bulb" setting on my camera as could only get up to 30 sec's,now I understand how to use it I can try for longer exposures as well from the info you put in your 1st post.

Really appreciate you taking the time to advise a complete newbie ,been wanting to have a go at trails for ages ,so a big Thank You .

I'm in Rotherham & thats the good'ol M1 south bound.

If there's anyoe else roundabouts to here who wouldn't mind a bit of company one evening to do some more feel free to PM me .Just be prepared for lots of daft questions & giggles when I get it somewhere near right :D

Thanks again Matt
 
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#39
Thanks for you kind comments Matt & no,by all means leave the edited one on, I will check back to it as a reference point for the future(y)

I've taken on board what you say about settings ,will adjust & play about more next time . Hoping to get out saturday a little earlier in the evening and with the remote release cable if it arrives.
I had to ask on the forum earlier about the "bulb" setting on my camera as could only get up to 30 sec's,now I understand how to use it I can try for longer exposures as well from the info you put in your 1st post.

Really appreciate you taking the time to advise a complete newbie ,been wanting to have a go at trails for ages ,so a big Thank You .

I'm in Rotherham & thats the good'ol M1 south bound.

If there's anyoe else roundabouts to here who wouldn't mind a bit of company one evening to do some more feel free to PM me .Just be prepared for lots of daft questions & giggles when I get it somewhere near right :D

Thanks again Matt
Check out this set and add me if you are a flickr user as would like to follow your work

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwhcvt/sets/72157622801523928/

If you look at the last 12 all these were shot at 30 seconds but I keep the exif details intact on all photos, so if you want to check the settings it may help you. feel free to post any questions on light trials and I shall endeavor to help or PM me any time.

:( Unfortunately the two trips I have on the M1 in the next week or so are Milton Keynes to looks at a wedding venue I have been asked to shoot at and up to EMA to do some more light trails as shown in my first post.

But if I am ever in your area I will let you know to see if you want to do some trails.

Matt
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