I was playing with light trails and slow shutter or long exposure last night. I remember studying this way back when I was in college. For whatever reason, I never really understood this concept. Maybe it was the way it was presented or it could have been that I wasn’t that interested. I liked the images I saw from others though and in some way, I was jealous that I couldn’t do the same thing. In reality, I could do the same thing but as I’ve mentioned before, I felt intimidated by my fellow classmates. Those days are long behind me and I’ve been curious about how light and long exposure or slow shutter actually play into images.
In my backyard, there is a red, white & blue circular windmill. I’ve often watched this thing spin around and around when the wind picks up and wondered how it would look on camera when trying to capture it as it spins. I finally got out there and spent some time shooting the windmill. I had fun and produced some interesting results.
In these first images, I spent time focusing on long exposure or slow shutter speed. I’ve included both long exposure and slow shutter speed in the same sentence because they are the same thing. They are interchangeable. Long-exposure photography or time-exposure photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to sharply capture the stationary elements of images while blurring, smearing, or obscuring the moving elements. From the description of long-exposure photography, you can see in the images that various parts of the windmill are spinning while others are barely moving or remaining still. Now I must admit that I had be the wind at times since there wasn’t much last night but when the wind did make its presence known, the results were spectacular.
After playing with the long exposure, I got to wondering about light trails. Light trails are created by using long exposure and an added element…light. I’m sure you’ve seen light trails. The best place to see them is in a night setting, a nice cityscape image with cars speeding by. The trail of light is created by the introduction of the cars’ headlight moving and the camera staying still. It’s a nice technique and produces some interesting images.
It wasn’t quite dark enough last night when I was shooting but I knew that the windmill’s design had enough space between slates to let light stream through. By increasing the exposure and light coming into the camera, yes even the camera of an iPhone, you can create the same effect. As you can see in the following images that by introducing the added element of light that as any element of the windmill spins (the three elements are the big, medium and small circular parts), the camera is capturing not only light but also the motion from the long exposure so their slates turn white to almost translucent.
Finally I’ve included some of my favorite images from the whole experiment. These last few images use both long exposure and light trails either by themselves or combined. I guess my biggest results is this…long exposure and light trails are not hard to create. At least they are not as hard as I once thought they were. To create either or both you need four things: 1.) a tripod or some stabilizing device to keep the camera still, 2.) an interesting subject, 3.) patience and 4.) have fun.