Light Shines From The Past

Well, it’s been about two months since i last posted something. I guess a lack of inspiration and being busy have kept me from being creative with my camera… I’ve been telling myself that i’ll get back out and try to take some shots, but there’s nothing worse than aimlessly pointing and shooting a camera, i find i work best when i have a picture in my mind that i can try to recreate with my camera. Having said that, i have been out and about a couple times to try out a few techniques that i want to get better at, so thought i’d share those and talk a little about them.

The theme of this post is light and trying to capture what the eye can’t see. I’ve taken plenty of light trail shots before and pretty much exhausted the local motorway bridges when practicing, i really want to get into a busy city to try and get some high impact traffic trails. I put some thought into what else i could use for light trails and settled on trains. There are a couple platforms nearby that can be accessed at night so i chose one not too far away and headed up there, this first image was actually taken before Christmas, i don’t remember it being that long ago. It was a pretty easy set up, i find that shooting light at night is a relaxing thing, you’ll often get plenty of chances to get the shot and there’s no real pressure on capturing an emotion or moment, instead it seems to be more trial and error with the camera settings, yet you still get a great buzz from getting the shot you planned. It’s also a really good way to learn about the effects of shutter speed, ISO and aperture on the camera, if i remember rightly it was pretty cold that night though!

I set my camera up on the platform and took a couple test shots of the empty tracks to make sure i could get the exposure i wanted using a shutter speed that would blur the train. This was quite an easy process and i settled for an ISO of 1600 and aperture of f/10 and a shutter speed of 1.6s, to be fair i could have probably used a load of different settings but these test shots looked good so i went with them. It was then a case of waiting for a train, which is helped by the departure boards around the station, i had a couple minutes to wait so set my camera to remote release so i wouldn’t have to rely on a self timer to fire the camera or worry about my hands shaking the camera when depressing the shutter release button. The remote release is basically a cable that allows you to fire the camera without having to touch it, this helps keep the camera as steady as possible. I didn’t want to get a fast moving train as i wanted the colours to be quite vivid so i waited until the train was slowly pulling away then let the camera go to work. I only took the one shot and as soon as it previewed on my camera i knew it was exactly what i was after, i have tweaked the clarity and saturation a little but nothing major.  I shot this with my 10-24mm lens at 10mm to give a nice stretched feel to the train which i think worked great.

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The second shot was a similar principle but i had to negotiate a barbed wire fence to get my camera into position. It’s a spot i’ve wanted to shoot for a while but not gotten round to it. After lifting my camera over the trackside fence and taking a few test shots i listened eagerly for a train, once i heard one coming i released the shutter on my camera, the shutter speed used here was a lot slower as i was stood side on and it was pitch black so couldn’t tell exactly when the train would enter or exit the frame so wanted to make sure i could guarantee the shot without over exposing it.  This picture actually turned out way better than i thought it would and i love the fact you get some foreground detail and can even pick out some stars.

The stars do seem slightly blurred, not sure if thats because the vibrations or wind from the train made my camera shake. I’m also not sure what the red and blue lights represent on the train but think it looks great and adds a nice effect to the shot. The final settings were ISO1000, f/3.5, 10mm at 6s.

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The last shot is of some stars in a local recreation ground.  I can’t claim credit for the creativeness behind the shot, it’s something that i’d seen online a couple of times and wanted to try. It’s quite easy to pull off, you just need a but of patience and a dark sky so the stars shine through. I could have done with a better night for it but i wanted to practice the technique, i’m keen to get out and better this effort, watch this space.

The technique is quite simple, set the camera up for a long exposure, i used 30s here and an ISO of 1600 to guarantee i would be able to pick out some of the brighter stars, i then set my camera up on a tripod and composed the image through the viewfinder, using the tree as a guide point, my camera also has a great virtual horizon on the live view that helps make sure the shot is level. I then switched my camera to manual focus and set it to infinity, it was also set on a 2s self timer. I started the camera out at 10mm and once the shutter released i counted to 10 in my head then slowly and consistently rotated the zoom ring on the lens until it reached 24mm which is the furthest it goes, this took about 15 seconds and then i let it rest for about 5 seconds at the end, the effect you get is pretty cool and can look even more dramatic if there’s a subject in the foreground, in this case, a couple of trees.

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