Light trails... / by Stephen Ball

This week's blog is about night photography and, more particularly, light trails.  Many photographers take photos at the start and end of the day, around sunrise and sunset, when the light is at its best.  However, go slightly beyond sunset and you reach 'blue hour' - that period when the sun is below the horizon but there is still some light in the sky which often turns a deep blue or almost purple in colour.  Combine this with some twinkly lights coming on in buildings and you have the recipe for some great photographs!  The name 'blue hour' is a slight anomaly as the period only lasts around 30 minutes or so in reality.

The other evening, we had good conditions and so I headed out just before sunset to find a spot/composition for some 'blue hour' photography.  I set up my gear on a tripod (essential for long exposure photography) just opposite the roundabout outside Casemates.  This gave me a great view of the Rock and Upper Town and with plenty of twinkly lights appearing as blue hour neared.

As the light was dropping quickly, I needed a long shutter speed to allow the photo to be properly exposed.  As I mentioned, the camera was on a tripod (I use a Manfrotto 055 with Sirui K-40x ball head) as I wouldn't be able to hold the camera still for the 15 seconds or so shutter speed.  The other benefit of low light, long shutter speeds and traffic is light trails!  The roundabout outside Casemates is always busy with traffic and over the course of my 15 second exposure, quite a few cars would pass with their lights on.  This leaves some great patterns or 'light trails' on the picture but it's a case of trial and error to get the best patterns - I took around 30 photos and picked the best one afterwards.

The pic below was shot at ISO100, f/16 and 15 seconds exposure with the Tamron 15-30mm wide angle lens.  This was then processed in Lightroom.

So, why not grab your camera and tripod and head out for some blue hour light trails!  Please post your best light trail pic in the comments below.