Driving around Port Melbourne on a rainy Sunday with Jon Sander last winter, we stumbled across this overpass that provides a great view of one of Melbourne’s busier highways. We were fortunate that the overpass was quiet and isolated away from the traffic below making its way in and out of Melbourne.
So… The photo you see is actually a composite of three images. One image formed the base with an additional two images being used to exaggerate the amount of traffic. Sure, I could have kept the shutter open for longer but to be honest – I am slightly pedantic when it comes to these things. Sometimes it can be easier to capture the base image and snap seperate frames when you see a large lump of traffic or a truck coming. Using layer-masks makes dropping the additional traffic into the frame quite easy. Over the top? Probably.
When it came to the colour grading of the image, I wanted to keep the cold feel from the day (keeping the sky looking cold and gloomy) but wanted some warmth to parts of the image. Using layer masks and a warmer temperature, I warmed the bottom half of the image while leaving the top half of the frame with a cold feel (using a layer mask to ensure the top half remain untouched).
For the remainder of the image, I used a range of dodge and burning to:
Bring out the star effect in the lights
Lighten the surrounding buildings
Add mood to the sky
And that’s that 🙂 Apologies that this post isn’t glamorous with interesting information. It wasn’t the most complex scene or photo to edit. The only trickery here was around the multiple layers used to exaggerate the flow of traffic.
If you have any questions, be sure to comment or drop an email!
I don’t know about you but when winter rolls around I can get a little lazy and sitting in front of the tv getting absorbed by great TV (I’m looking at you The Wire and Soprano’s) which means I don’t get out and take as many photographs as I’d like. Rather than be put off by the winter chill I’ve been making an effort to get out and shoot even if it means getting less than ideal photography conditions of dull overcast skies. You will be happy to note I still managed to get 6 seasons of The Soprano’s down over the course of a month. Such a great show but moving along…
Coming from a small city like Hobart we miss out on the 8 lane highways with a constant stream of traffic around the city. Part of this eagerness to get out and shoot more urban cityscapes is partly due to a friend, Jon Sander, having a keener interest in urban scenes over landscapes like I’m normally drawn to. But for me, urban long exposures is what first got me interested into photography so it’s nice to return to my roots. One thing I’ve really enjoyed shooting more urban scenes is the static nature of the scene. I love shooting seascapes and how they’re constantly changing but it definitely means you have to be on your game in terms of watching what the tide is doing, whether the swell is picking up or dropping off and the like. Taking photos of cityscapes is almost relaxing in comparison and gives you more freedom to take your time.I miss the quiet roads of Hobart (see an earlier post at Black Rock where I finally bit the bullet after 2 years of living here and started driving) but the busy highways of Melbourne are screaming out to be photographed. So I guess you could say I’ve made it a bit of a mission to get out and get as many traffic long exposure shots after lusting over busy cityscapes like these shots on 500px byAndreas Jensen, Florian Delalée and Mathijs van den Bosch that used to be make me glee with envy.
Taking a quick look at how shutter speed comes into play for long exposures in the city
I’m sometimes asked by friends starting out in photography how are the lines you see in city long exposures captured? Whether it is something done in Photoshop? Not at all. After I finished taking some photos I wanted to capture some photos of varying exposure times to give you a sense of how exposure times and aperture come into play when shooting long exposures of cityscapes. As you can see below there are around 6 exposures of varying speeds. The fastest being captured at 1/60 of a second is fast enough to still freeze the movement of cars. As we gradually slow down the exposure you can see that the movement of cars become combined to create lines of red and white on the lanes.
One thing to also note with the images below I’ve slowed down the exposure times and dialed up the aperture. By this I mean the 1/60 image is photographed at f/4, the 1/13 second exposure at f/8 and the last shots at f/20. Ok great you’re probably thinking but why are you telling me this? Focus on the street lights for a moment and you will notice that as the aperture is dialed up from say f/8 to f/20 it creates a star effect around the light. It’s a neat effect and often used by photographers when capturing cityscape photographs around blue hour. One thing to note though is that it’s easy to overdo your exposure times. I try to factor in a few different things when deciding on my exposure time. I’ll try to describe some things that I’ll visually note:
Is it windy? Wind can be both good and bad for your slow shutter photos. On the plus side a windy scene will generally mean you will get some movement of the clouds which creates a surreal blur of the clouds (like this photograph at Cape Woolamai, Victoria). But on the other hand, strong wind can create un-wanted blur on parts of your photo and should be avoided. An example of this is below for my long exposure of traffic passing a large tree where the foliage has blurred from the exposure being too long. Trying to find the right balance is key
How busy is the traffic? Generally where the traffic is quite busy you can get away with a shorter exposure time. For scenes where the roads are quiet like a small country town you may need a longer exposure to exaggerate the traffic. One technique I like in these situations to capture multiple exposures then combine them in Photoshop as layers. Through doing so you can stack the different traffic layers on top of each other to also exaggerate the level of traffic
What is the light doing? As the sun goes down I’ll aim for a shorter exposure but as blue hour starts (at the end of the sunset) I will aim for a longer exposure
Shooting traffic long exposures is one of the easiest forms of long exposure photography. Get out there with your tripod, put the camera into AV mode, dial into a high aperture (i.e. F/20) and lower the ISO to the lowest your camera goes and you’re half way there to a good shot. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up through the contact page and I’d be happy to help.
A handful of long exposure photos around Melbourne
Here’s a few photos I’ve taken around South East Melbourne over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been too crash hot each time I’ve gone out but that’s Melbourne for you. One thing I’m particularly liking for traffic long exposures is using blue hour to your advantage. For those unfamiliar with blue hour, this is a time that happens after the sun sets and there is no complete darkness or light. I guess you could say a balance between the two. It’s a stunning hour where a nice amount of colour remains in the sky for 20 minutes or so. If you’re planning on shooting some traffic long exposures I’d recommend not to leave straight after the sunset and wait a bit for the blue hour as this will give your best results. If you’re after further information, Wikipedia has some great sample shots and details.
Two photos captured in Port Melbourne on a warm but breezy summers evening with photographer Ben Jensz. It’s always fun shooting with Ben as although we’re both interested in the same styles of photography, we always manage to walk away with different shots which is also partly due to him shooting with the beautiful Fuji G617. His landscape photography is stunning and well worth a look.
I’m torn between the two with one taken during magic hour light and another converted to black and white not long after as the sun had hidden below the horizon. It’s interesting how much difference 5-10 minute can make to the scene. I’d been hoping to photograph this location since spotting it when I first arrived into Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania. My initial plans were to capture it on blue hour but unfortunately plans quickly changed when the tungsten floodlights lit up the front pylons. Bummer.