Let’s go play in traffic – my attempts at photographing car light trails

“When you come to a fork in the road….take it”

– Yogi Berra


My boy and I went on a little field trip Saturday night.  We took a walk over a pedestrian overpass to take a few night shots of traffic using a long exposure.

I wanted a crisp image, so I used a tripod, which is surprisingly heavy when you have to lug it up a pedestrian bridge.

Saturday Night on the Moray Pedestrian Bridge

This image was taken with an f/22 and 10 second exposure.  I had to play around a bit to find settings that worked.  It was a bit of a Goldilocks-like approach.  Thirty seconds was too long, 5 seconds was too short, 10 was just right.  I also tried a few using a lower f/stop, but f/22 created a nice brightness with the 10 second exposure.

Of course, there wasn’t very much traffic because it was 10:00 pm on a Saturday, but in a way, I sort of like the effect of just a few cars coming toward the camera, and a few going away. On the left side of the picture, I like that you can see the start and stop of the streams of light.  This may be an official no-no in night photography, but it works for me. I think the turn in the road helped to produce some leading lines.

I tried a few shots at ground level too, but didn’t like them as much.

Ground Level

My boy brought his Kodak point and shoot camera and took some pretty good shots using the nighttime landscape setting.

He also coined a new phrase (and least it’s new to me) – reverse light painting.  Using the nighttime landscape setting, he put moved his camera around to get a graffiti-effect.

Overall, this was a good experiment with the manual settings and provided a bonding opportunity for me and my boy.

Just after I took the ground level picture, I had to switch memory cards.  My finger hit it weird and the card went flying out of the camera.  We scrambled to find it.  My son asked permission to swear, which I granted on a one-time basis.  By some miracle, we found the card.  Bringing a flash light on night time shoots is probably not a bad idea.  Live and learn!


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