How to short circuit

Ever since I posted Short Circuit I’ve been meaning to post a small tutorial on how I did it. There were so many comments from people clamouring to know the secret of how I made traces of light dance around the picture frame.

Actually, nobody asked. Will was kind enough to suggest another title but otherwise it went unremarked. *sob* I’m going to tell you anyway.

The image is a long exposure shot, of at least 1 second and preferably 4 or 5 seconds. I simply stood in front of a construction site at night, lifted the camera, hit the shutter and rotated the camera around in my hands. Needless to say, I did not have the strap around my neck or I would have done myself damage!
At first I tried Aperture Priority mode, setting the aperture really small (big numbers, around F/22), but then I decided to do the obvious, and used Shutter Priority and simply set the speed(time) I wanted. Below are a few shots from that night, including the scene as it was on the night and some experimental shots as I practiced. The technique is really easy, but can create some really interesting and eye catching photos.

Aperture ƒ/3.5
Camera Canon EOS 20D
Focal length 10mm
ISO 800
Shutter speed 1/10s

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  1. Will Knott Reply

    Of course the other way to do this is to have shaky hands…

    But you know those “light writing” pictures where a moving light is used to generate an image on a slow shutter speed type shot?
    Can you write a message by moving the camera on a still light, instead of moving a light on a still camera?

  2. Donncha Reply

    Like this writing on the tower? I’d suspect that it’s easier to move the torch rather than the camera :)

  3. How Draw Reply

    You can also get this type of effect without the rotation with fireworks that stream (be careful!) with the same long exposure

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