ADVANCED TECHNIQUES and PROCESSES 2A Research into Capturing Light Trail Images and Painting with Light – Test 5


Research into Capturing Light Trail Images and Painting with Light

Relates to Outcome: 2 and 3


The object of this experimentation with light trails is to gain experience in another area of night photography. In many parts of the world, we are surrounded by light all night long, which provides us with endless opportunities to capture light in its many shapes and forms. One of the easiest and yet most effective techniques is capturing the light in the form of long trails. I experimented with this a little during the first year of my degree, however, I am returning to this exercise to see if I can improve on my photography one year on.


The secret to producing good light trails is to keep the shutter open long enough. I will be working with a 28mm wide angle lens, with a good composition, pre tested, where the light trail forms interesting shapes in order to lead the eye through the picture. I will be shooting on a parallel to create a better perspective.

I will be testing out a variety of shutter speed settings, using manual, at around f/8, f/7.1 with an ISO of 100, frequently using either bulb mode or an exposure at 30 seconds, using a remote shutter release and shooting in RAW to ensure greater control over my images. I will also be experimenting with moving the camera to add interest to the trails.

Painting with Light:

Torch light is also an effective way to illuminate your subject, the technique is similar to shooting traffic trails but the results are quite different. Rather than capturing a light source moving through a picture, you are using torchlight to ‘paint’ the subject with light. As with light trail photography, the technique relies on keeping the shutter speed open long enough to allow the torch-lit subject to be recorded.

Using manual mode and setting your shutter speed of around ten to thirty seconds with an aperture of f/8 or f/11 and an ISO of 200 to 400, should determine these settings allowing for some compensation depending on the intensity of the torch and how far away the photographer is from the subject. I will be practising this exercise, using a sweeping motion distributing light evenly over the subject so that if will illuminate equally. See research folder, Outcome ** for feature including ‘’Discover the art of long exposure’’, (Practical Photography: January 2014 & N Photo Feature: ‘’Ingenious recipes for stunning shots’’ also January 2014 and Digital Camera Online: 12 Common errors of Night Photography’’).

I will additionally be experimenting with ways in which to take a incident or reflective meter reading without the use of a meter using a tripod and by pointing the meter in the camera at the subject which gives you an EV number. By turning the outer dial to show this number in a window, you will see the shutter speed and aperture combinations you can use. In the case of an incident meter reading where you are dealing with a very dark toned background, an incident light reading will be more effective. To do this you slide a transclucent dome over the meter’s light sensor, hold the meter next to the subject and point it towards the camera to take a reading. Because it is measuring the light falling on the subject, and it isnt affected by the dark colour of the background the incident reading indicates a shorter exposure than the reflected reading. These are the settings used for our ‘after’ shot. Then by swapping to a white background and something pale as a subject, by measuring the exposure with the camera, the pale tones fool it into thinking there is a lot more light, thereby reducing the exposure. However, if we measured the amount of light falling on the table (say for the previous subject), the light will not have changed. Subsequently, if we use the same incident reading we measured earlier, the pale subject matter (for example sea shells) and background will be reproduced perfectly.


What were my aims and did I achieve them?

Following on from the success of my earlier camera movement experiment, I decided to rethink my aims which was to capture white light with colour to full colour fusion and bokeh capture. I have successfully achieved these aims using the technical approaches described above using light from the Christmas tree at home to capture bokeh and full colour.

What did I get from the exercise?

I found this exercise to be relaxing and away from the pressure of uni, I find I can make my images more interesting because I am inclined to think that these images are just for fun. I have realised however that these images have a value to them as they good be used as backgrounds for computer screens and for mobile phones.

Whats next?

I will therefore be contacting several organisations to see if they would be interested in purchasing these images as ‘screen savers’.


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