Just like you can photograph star trails, you can also photograph car trails! During a long night-time exposure, both the front, and hind lights of the car leave light trails across your image sensor.
The results are eye catching and interesting, and are great for encouraging novice photographers to leave auto mode, and try something new. In this tutorial I am going to explain how to get successful car trail images, but at the end of the day, it is up to you to get out and experiment!
To begin with, you cannot use auto mode! You need to be in full manual mode. Choosing a certain shutter speed is too unpredictable, instead, scroll past 30 seconds, to BULB. Some cameras have this as ‘B’ on the mode dial. Bulb mode allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you want, you just depress the shutter button, and hold, then release when you want to end the exposure!
You will need a tripod. This is mandatory when working with long exposures. Your photography will also benefit from a cable shutter release, as this allows you too lock the exposure, and means you do not have to hold the shutter button down, which, after several minutes results in finger-ache. Also, no human can remain completely immobile, and by using a cable shutter release you avoid the inevitable minor-camera shake.
- So long as it is not snowing, or raining, clouds don’t matter
- Use a wide frame of view, if possible, include a nice, lit building, as well as a road
- ISO 100-200 (or you get overexposure)
- Aperture of between f8-f11 (to exploit maximum sharpness)
- BULB Shutter speed. Just hold the shutter down, and release once you are sure several cars have passed. Then view the image, and if it is not good, adjust position/ composition/ exposure accordingly