Posts Tagged ‘night’

Down at Marina Bay, Singapore’s modern, sleek (expensive) waterfront by the central business district, a funky little collection of light art is drawing in plenty of visitors; local and overseas. I took my camera down and grabbed a range of shots, but it was these two that caught the eye of the Flickr gallery curators, who added them both to a Flickr-wide gallery and graciously afforded me hundreds upon hundreds of new eyes to gaze over my Wall Art. The gallery can be found at

And the images are here: enjoy! Click on the image to view in my Flickr feed, please star them on Flickr if you like them 🙂

The Red Dot - I Caught A City!

It’s a basic of using your camera, but there’s nothing wrong with a little help in making a good shot become a little bit better, if not unique.

It’s all about your shutter speed. You’ll need a camera with access to the shutter speed, but this isn’t just fancy SLRs: my wife’s new point and shoot compact camera has a manual mode, and a shutter priority mode, and fits in the mysterious little pocket inside her handbag flap (Nikon P7700). Even an iPhone camera can be made to use slower shutter speeds (take a look at Slow Shutter Cam app for iOS).

This is how it works, ignoring the other two points of the exposure triumvirate – aperture and sensitivity:

Your camera’s shutter can be open for a given length of time, ranging from extremely fast (maybe 1/8000th of a second depending on your camera), to extremely slow (30 seconds, minutes, hours – potentially as long as you want). Simple physics means that the longer a shutter is open, the more light enters into the chamber, or onto the sensor. So a slower shutter speed makes for a brighter exposure. But it also means that the sensor (or film) will “see” any given photon of light in every location it is present whilst the shutter is open. In simpler terms, any object that moves will imprint its movement onto the sensor for the duration of the shutter being open. In baby terms; motion is blurred. The longer the shutter is open, the more movement is recorded, so the more blur.

Using long exposure to include motion blur into your image works best when there is also something static in the image to contrast with and further highlight the motion. This can be pretty strong contrast, like when photographing waterfalls:

Motion Blur in Waterfall

Slowed down, flowing waterfall tumbling over large rocks and granite, with a fallen tree and other debris in this Tasmanian river.

Or it can be a really subtle contrast, like this night shot where everything is in focus, but a moving plane creates a light trail:

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night with light trail from moving plane

The world-famous sails of the Opera House puncture the night air, with a passing jet leaving a trail overhead as it approaches Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This contrast between the sharp static objects and the blurred moving ones is key. But because your shutter will allow every moving object to record its blur, it’s vital that you don’t allow the static objects to move. In short, you mostly need to USE A TRIPOD! A previous post talks about the huge impact of the inexpensive polarising filter: the tripod is a similar piece of kit that will have a huge impact on your images. An easier-to-carry option is the Gorillapod, which can stand or wrap itself around whatever is handy at the scene, whilst still fitting in a coat pocket or a carrier bag. For very long exposures, or night shots, you’ll need a cheap cable shutter release button to prevent your button-pressing on the camera from shaking it and causes unwanted blur. Using the self-timer option is another way round this.

There are times when you don’t have to use a tripod of course. Inverting the motion blur effect so that everything but the moving object is blurred requires you to track the object as the shutter is released, like this:

Saigon Motorbikes

Tracking Shot of two motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam. Night shot, with motion blur background and frozen-in-action bikes.

Using a tracking shot like this means a tripod is likely to get in your way.

Whilst the classic long exposure shot blurs running water in rivers and waterfalls, you can also use it to capture light trails, moving vehicles, the stars – in fact, anything at all. I’d love to hear of your exploits with long exposure, especially if they’re different.