I apologize for letting the last couple days slip right through my hands, its been a work-filled week with friend hang outs in every possible moment and definitely no real work on my photography going on. Anyway!
Who here likes those cool pictures where the lights are blurred into straight lines that seem to wizz around the frame, or the ones taken in the dead of night and pick up everything? I know I do. Those infinitely awesome photos are called “long exposures” and these are some of my favorite kind of photos.
When I was still a first-timer I was still heavily reliant on the guides provided for me- metering and relying on suggested shutter speeds from my camera. I can still remember my first night time long exposure, it was of an intersection near my neighborhood. There was this really pretty old red barn and some horses right next to these stop lights which I found to be kind of ironic- my hometown is made of irony- combining hicksville with modern suburbia. Anyway my idea was to catch cars wizzing through the intersection and the barn behind it and voila, beautiful photo, right? The way I wanted to frame everything in my head forced me to rough it and set up my tripod and camera in the middle of the street- thank god for the planted lane dividers or I really would have been in the middle of the street at night. Anyway since I was still new to this I made the typical rookie mistake, first off, it was pitch black out and late and there were like all of 3 cars out that night, and I ended up only exposing for 15 seconds or so, maybe a little more. It definitely wasn’t significant enough to catch anything more than a short blur of headlights and none of the backround. You live and learn, right?
Since then I’ve learned many new things regarding long exposures and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty decent at them, and just writing about them makes me wish I did them more. I went through this phase where I did a lot of night time photography and that’s where I really learned what to do and how to do it- which I’ll be sharing with you of course. Now that I know how to do it, its actually quite simple and I can’t believe I messed it up so easily before. So here are some things I have learned by way of my errors and feel you need to know too…
Things you’re gonna need:
- A sturdy tripod or something to set your camera down onto (even the cheap ones work, I’ve been using the same 29 dollar tripod for 5+years now)
- A cable shutter release (these are super cheap at ritz or any other camera store)- so you wont shake the camera while holding the shutter open, and maybe a photo buddy to make sure you don’t get hit by cars. :)
- Basic knowledge of the “bulb setting” on your camera. It allows you to leave your shutter open for however long you choose, no preset time.
- Everyone says you need to go out during the twilight hour or “magic hour” which is the time the sky is still kinda bluish from right after the sun set, but you can do long exposures at anytime of the night and they will still turn out amazingly- don’t follow every rule you’re taught.
Step by Step (ooo baby…did NKOTB run through anyone elses head when they read that?)
- Once you’ve found something you want to shoot, or a scene you like, look around for the best possible angles, get high, get low, get sideways- whatever works for you, but make sure you love it because you’re gonna be dedicating a couple minutes at a time to this location.
- Set up that bad boy tripod– that totally doubles as a weapon (btw ladies this is key if you’re photographing alone- who needs pepper spray when you have something heavier than a bat), your camera, and cable release (make sure to screw it in all the way)
- Remember to focus
- Set the Aperture (basically the size of the opening through which light enters your camera and hits your film). For long exposures with things that are lit- lights, cars, signs, the moon- I like to go with a smaller aperture (22 should do the trick) so that not too much light is let in and that way you can catch all the cool patterns lights make, it would be the same as if you were shooting in daylight almost, you don’t want to wash out your picture with tonnes of light, just the right kind of light, right?
- Press down your cable release button and lock it into place – most come with built in locks so you don’t have to stand there pressing it down forever (also the button totally feels like one of those movie type detonators where they blow up something from a remote location)
- Now walk away and don’t come back until you’ve felt you got it, the shot… No but seriously depending on how light or dark it is out and what you’re looking to capture you can leave it open anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and still capture a good shot. When I shot the above photo with all the lights I think my exposure time was around 45 seconds, I counted slowly in my head. The below shots were minutes long though, I really wanted to capture the stars in the sky and the clouds the naked eye could only barely make out. At the time I shot it I was convinced I had left my shutter open too long because it felt like forever but when we developed them they were perfect- you have to just trust your instinct.
- Basically just play with your exposures, if you’re photographing cars moving you’re going to want at LEAST 30 seconds (depending on how fast they’re moving) to get any kind of light trails, naturally lit nature will take longer- minutes even, lit buildings are shorter exposures anywhere from 15-30 seconds usually.
I hope I might have helped you all in your night-time photo taking adventures, I know its definitely inspired me to go out at night more this week and take some shots.