Light Trail on Highways

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Introduction: Light Trail on Highways

About: Mechanical Engineer stranded in Texas

The light trail of cars in a road or highway at night can create beautiful images. For a long time, I have thought they are complex images to capture until I bought my DSLR camera and learned about long exposure photography. If you are also interested in taking such photos, follow the steps below:

Step 1: What You Need:

1- Sturdy tripod

2- DSLR Camera

3- Shutter Release or Remote(Optional)

Step 2: Selecting a Suitable Location

In order to be able to capture a good light trail image, it's good to take it on a bridge over a highway, a balcony in a building next to the highway, or on a hill next to a road. Pay attention not to select unsafe areas as cameras are expensive objects for thieves and you will be taking the photo at night. if possible, ask a friend to join you. Once you are at the location, you can set up your camera on the tripod.

Step 3: Specifications of Your Photo:

1- Select the "Manual (M)" mode

2- Set the ISO to 100

3- Set f-stop to 22 (or similar)

4- Set the exposure to 10-25 sec

5- The less focal length, the better as we are seeking a wide view of the highway

6- Select RAW format for better post-processing but JPEG would be fine

7- Better to use manual focus

Note: This setting worked for me on a bridge over a highway where I was away from the cars, if you choose a location closer to the cars, then probably you end up choosing lower number f-stop and shorter exposure time.

Step 4: Take Some Photos

In order to avoid vibrations and blurring in your shot, you can either use a wired shutter release or the self-timer mode. Depending on the number of cars, darkness of the area and your location, I would suggest taking some photos tweaking with different exposure times to find the optimal one.

Step 5: Some Tips

Once you took the photo, you can process it in photo editing software. If the format is RAW, then post-processing would be easier.
Also, you can try taking photo a little after the sunset. At this time, car lights are on but the sky is not too dark. This allows you to capture the surroundings such as trees, buildings and the light blue sky.

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4 Discussions

This is long exposure, not time lapse. Now... Time lapse video using a series of long exposure shots is even cooler!

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1 reply

Thank you so much Craig for bringing that up. You are absolutely right. I think there was a typo only in the newsletter.

Very useful! It is quite straightforward to follow and carry out the whole process. Well done!

Those are beautiful shots! Great work :)