Light Trails Through The Grand Parade

Light Trails Through The Grand Parade

The Grand Parade last night while I was out with Blarney Photography Club in Cork.

The shot is a 25 second exposure. For 20 seconds I exposed normally with the lens at it’s widest, but for the last 5 seconds I slowly zoomed from 17mm to 40mm to get the light trail effect.

Aperture ƒ/22
Camera Canon EOS 6D
Focal length 17mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 25s

An Garda

An Garda

A member of An Garda Síochána directed traffic in Blarney last night when Santa visited and the lights were turned on in the village.

This is a long exposure zoomed shot, of about one second duration with the flash firing at the end of the exposure.

To replicate:

  • Make sure you set your flash to “second curtain”. Use Google to find out how on your brand of flash. Normally the flash will fire at the start of an exposure.
  • Have the lens at it’s widest zoom.
  • Set the camera to one second exposure in shutter priority mode (Tv on Canon cameras, S on others) or use manual mode with an aperture as wide as possible.
  • Line up your subject, hit the shutter button and slowly zoom in.

If you’ve timed it right the flash will fire when you’re zoomed in right. They’ll be lit by the flash and any background lights will appear as streaks going towards them. It’s hard to get right and not overexpose your subject so keep practising!

Aperture ƒ/13
Camera Canon EOS 6D
Focal length 20mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 1s

Coburg Street Lights

Coburg Street Lights

The lights of Coburg Street and passing cars in a long exposure shot of the street from the traffic lights at the junction with Bridge Street.

This was a 15 second exposure at f/22. The lovely star shape of the street lights is because the opening in the lens was so small (at f/22) and the diaphragms of my lens. It takes a long time to get the exposure but it’s worth it!

This appears to be a beautiful example of Fraunhofer diffraction. It is due to the wave nature of light. The effect depends on the wavelength (that is, the color). It is most pronounced when bright light from a practically infinite distance passes through narrow slits, causing the light to spread perpendicular to the slits. This spreads a point-like beam of light into a pair of streaks.

Using a small aperture creates slit-like situations at the corners formed by adjacent blades. Thus, when you have a combination of relatively intense, pointlike, monochromatic light sources in the image and a narrow aperture, you should see a streak (of the same color) emanating from the points in two directions perpendicular to the blades…

…Finally, length of exposure is related to the occurrence of this effect, as you have observed, but only because exposures with bright points of light are almost always made much longer than needed to record the lights: you’re trying to see the rest of the scene, which is much darker. The brightness of the diffraction streaks decreases so rapidly away from their sources that if you used a sufficiently short exposure to properly expose the lights themselves, the streaks would be practically invisible.

Aperture ƒ/22
Camera Canon EOS 6D
Focal length 19mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 15s

Light Trails on MacCurtain Street

Light Trails on MacCurtain Street

Ghostly light from passing cars hangs in the air on the corner of MacCurtain Street and Bridge Street in Cork City, Ireland.

This is the second of three light trails or light streaks photos I’ll post here in an unintentional series of long exposure photos. The first was my Light Trails in Blarney photo published yesterday.

Aperture ƒ/22
Camera Canon EOS 6D
Focal length 17mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 8s

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