The Method Behind The Madness – part 1

So after my previous post, I realized that instead of just writing technical jibber jabber, what would really help my audience is a part by part explanation of a photo, and I decided to choose tis photo in particular because it contains some basic techniques as well as some advanced methods which might seem difficult at first but really once I tell you how it’s done, literally anyone can take such photos! So here goes nothing.

I was walking the streets of Granville a few weeks back, minding my own business, just my camera and tripod and a remote shutter in my backpack in what had to be one of the rarest rain-less nights in recent Vancouver history when I stumbled upon this famous street and my mind instantly started forming a photograph. The setting was perfect: Old, brick buildings, long, unique streetlights, neon signs lighting up the roadside, cars wheezing by. All that was left was to execute it. One of the things I wanted to experiment with was getting light trails in my picture. In layman’s terms, a light trail is when there is a moving light source in the frame and you leave the shutter open long enough for the camera to capture the moving light as a trail, rather than stationery light. Basically think of it like this: If there are cars moving, and the car’s headlights/tail lights are on, and you leave the shutter open long enough, the final image will appear as a trail of light. The cool trail of light you see on the road in the picture above is exactly that: Lights from cars! So the first thing I knew I needed to do was leave the shutter open long enough for 2 reasons: 1. to get light trails and 2. It was night and hence dark, apart from the neon lights so I wanted to make the image a bit brighter. So I set a shutter speed of 20 seconds, which meant as soon as I pressed the shutter, it would be open for 20 seconds before capturing the image. The second thing I wanted to do was keep my image as clean as possible, which meant using the lowest possible ISO. In this image I used a long shutter speed so it allowed me to escape using an ISO of 100. So far so good. The third thing I wanted to do was since it’s a cityscape and not a portrait, I wanted the viewers to experience all the details in the image so I needed to make the image as sharp as possible, which meant using a high f-stop, so I used an f-stop of 11.0. This, combined with the 25 second shutter speed and ISO 100, gave me the image above. AND ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE WHILE TAKING LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOS: THE.CAMERA.CAN.NEVER.MOVE. It is CRUCIAL that while the shutter is open, the camera remain absolutely still otherwise the image will get blurry. VERY blurry. So that was the image, and then I took it home and did some light retouching and the above image is what I ended up with!

*I’ll leave a link here for those who are interested in getting into and understanding long exposure photography:

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