the long trip home..

by Lauren Reed
(Austin, Tx)

I was hoping to capture the dichotomy of motion and tranquillity of the highway at night.

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Lauren's photo is a wonderful abstract. Clearly there is motion here with all those light trails (the colour lines), but tranquillity I suppose is more an individual thing!

This photo is an easy one to achieve, and why not have a go at the 'light trail' effect yourself? What you need to do is set your camera to a long shutter speed. Start with about a second, and then try more if you need to.

Don't go too far though, because you will end up with too many light trails across your photo and it will look like an overexposed plate of spaghetti! (click to read more on understanding exposure)

Obviously you need to be out at night for this. The key thing to remember is that anything in darkness will barely register on your photo, but points of light will. If those points of light move across the camera's sensor light trails will appear.

Once your camera is set up, click the shutter button, and then wave the camera around a bit. Don't just go back and forth, but use circles and arcs too.

An alternative to this is to take the photo whilst in the car, moving along. Get someone else to drive, and then hold the camera close to the windscreen whilst moving along. Don't worry about holding the camera still, it's the movement that makes the effect.

If you want to go for the other classic take on this type of light trail photography, set your camera up in an area with reasonably busy roads, and something in the background. This time set your camera either on a tripod, or on a solid surface.

There are some examples of this effect, along with more digital night photography tips here.

Take the same ten second (or thereabouts) photo. This time, the cars that move will leave light trails, but the buildings that are stationary will be clear in the scene.

Thanks for the submission Lauren, and to everyone else – get out there and give it a go!


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