My good friend, Jessica, motivated me to do something crazy: set up my camera in the middle of the night in the freezing Connecticut winter. How did she get me to do that?
Well, deep down, I wanted to do it, but she motivated me by always saying that I should try some long exposure photography. If you're not a photography enthusiast, long exposure photography is....hmm have you ever seen those photographs of a road or highway but instead of seeing cars, you just see the streak of the tail-lights? Or have you seen a photo from a wedding where they have sparklers and they are drawing hearts or spelling out the word, "LOVE?"
That's long exposure photography.
While those images are great, my attempt at long exposure photography was not about freezing something in motion. Instead, my goal was to turn night into day.
I once came across a great article about unique long exposure scenes. The photographer would capture "everyday" looking photos at a beach and other outdoor locations and when you see them you don't think much of them. But in reality, the photographs were captured in the middle of the night with the surrounding conditions being very dark. It's otherwise unnoticeable, but you can see very intriguing colors in the sky and you can see the stars very clearly in some of the photos.
I thought this was a great idea, and I decided to take my camera outside in the wee frigid hours of the morning and try to turn night into day with long exposure photography.
This is Belltown Park (Stamford, CT) at 5:30AM:
Nikon D90 | 18-200mm @ 18mm | ISO 800 | f/3.5 | 2630K | shutter speed: 128.7 seconds or 2 minutes 8 seconds
I was happy to see the sky that shade of purple, and to begin to catch the tracking of the stars. If you look closely at the tops of the trees you'll notice that they are a bit fuzzy. That's from them slightly swaying in the wind during the 2 minute 8 second exposure. The camera caught that slight motion.
Just to give you an idea of what is actually happening by exposing the picture for so long, to show you the work the camera is actually doing, here is an image of my street at a little before 5:30AM, taken with "normal" exposure. This is how dark it really was outside. You can compare this with the other images:
Another example of the long exposure - Stamford High School's Boyle Stadium at 6AM.
Nikon D90 | 18-200mm @ 18mm | f/3.5 | 2630K | Shutter Speed: 141.2 or 2 minutes 21 seconds
Notice the stars in the sky. They almost look like little curved dashes. That's not because the camera is moving or shaking. I set it up on a tripod. The stars look like that because of the earth's rotation. The camera is exposing the photo for so long that it is showing where the star appeared in the sky at the beginning and at the end of the capturing of the photo. Too cool.
Lastly, the beach area at Cumming's Park (Stamford, CT):
(Sorry I can't seem to pull up the metadata on this one. It's still a D90 with an 18-200mm though.)
Here is a link to the original article that inspired this:
A couple of disclaimers after (if) you look at the article:
1. Again You may think, "those are just shot in the daytime and the photographer is just saying they were the middle of the night." Not so. DSLRs can expose photographs for many, many minutes if you let them. They're smart. If you can get the right settings, anything is possible.
2. I will try this again. Not in the winter, and not in Connecticut. I needed more patience to achieve the same kind of quality as the images in the article. It was cold and my patience ran thin quickly. And sometimes, equipment makes a difference. I created these with a D90 and I look forward to what the D700 (and more) can create in the middle of the night.