Phantoms, light trails, spinning lights and turning night into day!

Continuing on the theme from my last post, the exploration of interesting and fun ways to capture light at night using long exposures and a wide angle lens, I stopped into Forest City Surplus this evening and picked up a couple variations of LED lights, some rope, appropriate hardware to connect them all together and managed to find a couple of willing assistants in my exploration of movement and light.

The first image is a simple ‘long exposure phantom’; created by having a stationary subject in the frame for a short period during the thirty second exposure, and in this case, shining a flashlight on his face while standing there.  The result is always fun to play with, leaving a ‘ghost’ image behind with the creepy ‘up-lighting’ technique that reminds me of old black and white horror films.

The next three images are created as two young helpers rolled past the camera position on their roller blades while holding a flashlight.  The resulting light trails are quite basic, but as a test for a future project, proved the concept to be sound.  In the first image I’m also standing in front of the camera spinning a small light as they roll past behind me.  I won’t reveal the future plan, but rest assured it will be fun and create some interesting images.  I will say that I need more lights!

The next four images are variations on the spinning light technique I tested last night and wrote about in the previous post.  Using a different kind of light that is lighter and offers a bright glow visible from the side as well as when the light is aimed towards the camera offered a better overall result in the spinning images, making a more complete loop visible as compared to the ones from last night.  I like the effect much more than the first ones, and will certainly be doing more with this method.

Image nine gives you an idea of just how much light the moon reflects. With the full harvest moon rising tomorrow night (actually, it’s full just 12 hours after these were taken as it sets in the western sky on the morning of the 20th, but will still be almost perfectly lit at moonrise on the night of the 20th), the light from the moon on a clear night can provide a great deal more illumination than people realize.  In fact, the moon can cast shadows!

The scene is at one of the cycling trails that meander along the Thames through London, located not far west of Clarke Road.  The beautiful forested trails offer a pathway that goes from one end of the city to the other, and some stunning views.  It was a perfect location for this test!  As you can see in the image, the moon is glowing nearly as brightly as the sun in the day, and the surrounding parkland is rather well exposed as a result.  When you look at the image, you might almost think that it’s shot in the daytime, until you realize that you are also seeing stars in the night sky!  There were no HDR, multiple exposure or Photoshop tricks used.  The image is right out of camera except for cropping, colour and contrast adjustments and a slight nudge in exposure.

And the final shot of the night is of the moon itself.  Moving from the slow exposures that were used for the other nine images (30 seconds for all of them at various ISO and aperture settings), I setup the moon shot at a rather surprising 1/250th of a second, f5.6 and ISO 100!  Even at that, the exposure was pulled back slightly in post to offer more detail in the darker areas of the surface of the moon.

Each month, there are about 4 or 5 days of near full moon that you can use to explore your own shots of this type.  The key to these, like any other, is to explore and experiment until you find the right settings for what you’re trying to do.  Play, make notes, and shoot LOTS of images.  You will end up with something that you can be happy with!