Long exposure is among the more popular techniques used to capture light, and it can be done so easily and beautifully to capture the illusion of night. There's a wide spectrum of lighting to be found on a street, highway, in a tunnel, factory, during a sunset, and even a heavily lit Christmas scene. So go ahead and capture it! Sound hard? It's actually quite simple really! As long as you know what to prepare, you'll be able to capture extremely cool long exposure shots!
I used the LC-A+ to capture this shot. I went to a highway during the night and took a long exposure shot with car lights as my light source. Car lights give photos a very fascinating effect with the resulting colors. It seems hard, but it is not. The following is what you need to prepare to capture the same effect I got ☺
【What You Need】
1. Camera（ LC-A+, Holga, Diana, Belair X 6-12 – these cameras are easy to handle for long exposure since they have bulb mode）
2. Tripod (required)
3. Release cable (required)
4. Film (Any film is fine, it depends on your lighting situation – pick what you need)
5. Tools (mug light, watch, black masking tape, extra batteries, and make sure you dress warm, after all it’s after dark!）
1. About the Tripod and Cable Release
Let’s start with the Tripod. You must use a tripod. You don’t have to get an expensive tripod, though I recommend you get something stable as the street or wind makes for unwanted shaky results. Particularly if you’re using heavier cameras such as the Lubitel you may want to get something stable to hold the heavier camera in place for you.
The Cable Release is also a ‘must’ item for you to capture the perfect long exposure shot. The photo above was exposed for over 10 seconds. In such a shooting situation, you must have a cable release to hold down the shutter. So you’re using the classic LC-A? Hmm, go ahead and hold the shutter down with your finger! (If you are using cameras which don’t support any cable releases try your best to steadily hold your finger down for a few seconds! If you are a seasoned Lomographer perhaps a small shake is nothing to you, kudos! Stay the way you are!
2. Choosing the Right Film
You can pick either color negative or color slide – the key is the ISO setting. As we’re going to be shooting in the dark I would suggest using a film of ISO 400 or above. However it’s your call in deciding on the exposure level as well as conceptualizing the photo and which camera you’ll use for the experience. So please choose the ISO setting for yourself.
The photo I introduced earlier, above, may have become over exposed if I had used a higher ISO film. (This is one reason to use a camera with a bigger aperture such as F2.8 with the LC-A). The Holga, Diana, Sprocket Rocket are equipped with smaller apertures. Therefore, when using anyone of these cameras we should use higher ISO film to capture enough lighting.
If you’re aiming for a “softer” result, use color negative film. If you like the result to be sharper/harder I’d recommend a color slide film.
3. How to Shoot ～ Regular Shooting at Night
Let me start with the “regular shooting” situation. (For this I will be using the LC-A+)
Set the tripod. Make sure to set it properly. If the tripod is not set stably, you’ll have a shaky shot. Then, affix the cable release to your camera. Set the ISO setting on your camera according to your film ISO. Depending on the light situation in your surroundings, try to bracket (shoot different shots with different ISO settings) so as to make sure to gain a result you would like.
4. How to Shoot ～ Using the Bulb Setting
The next ‘how to’ is for bulb mode – yes, just like the photo above.
If you’d like to shoot with a bulb you need to use the cable release to hold the shutter down for a longer duration. Some of you might ask “wait, do we even have a bulb switch on the LC-A+? The answer is no, we do not have bulb mode on LC-A+. Although cameras like the Holga and Diana do have “Bulb” switch, the LC-A+ does not come with one. So, what you need to do here is tweak some settings on your LC-A+. Ooh! On the prep. list I listed ‘black masking tape’. You want to use that now. Use the tape to cover the light meter on your LC-A+. In doing this the camera will detect the light as pitch black and will let the shutter open as long as you want. (Make sure to put the masking on tape well so that no light leaks into the light meter part).
Now, time to shoot! Set the ISO on your camera to the lowest setting (ISO 100 on LC-A+). Open the shutter for as long as you like. When you release your finger from the cable release the shutter will close. Exposure time really depends on your shooting purpose. Use a watch or timer to keep track of your exposure time.
If you use the auto exposure mode you won’t be able to predict when the shutter will close so you might not get as much light as you expected. That’s why you need to use the bulb mode to properly expose your shot.
This being said, even if you use the bulb mode to capture the light the shot will become over exposed if the shutter is opened for too long, so be careful! When you are in pitch black or in no light what-so-ever (including city lights), then knock yourself out. You always need to be aware of the light from sources you’d not think twice about such as the moon, cars, city lights, and so on. Once you get used to these kinds of shooting situations you’ll know whether or not your surroundings are dark enough to undertake a longer exposure ☺
5. Comparing Different Exposures
Let’s take a look at the differences between two different exposure times.
The photos below are exposed at two different exposure times. The one on the left is 10 seconds while the one on the right is 20 seconds. The films are same. I used Redscale 800 (actual ISO would be around 100) and a Holga to shoot with. I shot at dusk. For the shot on the left, the exposure wasn’t clear enough as the car lights weren’t as dynamic as I’d hoped. I don’t like it that much. On the other hand, the shot on the right was exposed enough. There was more traffic thus an adequate number of car lights as needed. It gets tricky at night to shoot long exposure so you may want to try different settings and shoot couple of different shots in order to gain the gem you’re looking for.
6. Shoot in Twilight
I also suggest shooting in twilight, also known as the ‘magic hour’ or ‘blue moment’ as immediately after the sun has set you’ll still get some light from the sun. So, treat it as an opportunity to capture some lovely shots. At this hour you’ll be able to capture the sky’s as being more blue and/or purple than it is in actuality. This forgiving hour has the power to give you amazing shots! A long exposure shot will allow you different perspectives by enhancing the sky’s color. If you take it up a notch and use cross processed film you’ll get even more stunning shots, rich with different colors. Simply, use the auto exposure mode to capture in this setting.
7. Advanced Techniques
The following pointers are advanced techniques for you to enjoy long exposure in more depth, for a long time! You can capture many additional colors and effects by applying the following techniques. Here are some of my special tips:
・Multiple Exposure (MX) ～ Symmetrical Images
Multiple Exposure (MX) is a technique to create the zenith of dramatic night scenes. The key is to manipulate your tripod mount. Usually, the tripod mount can swivel around 90 degrees. A trick I use is to put two tripod mounts together and turn the mount 180 degrees. Please see the below photo for a comprehensive explanation. By using different types of tripod head mounts you’ll also be able to put your camera underneath the tripod to shoot upside down. Once you’ve taken one shot take the camera off from the tripod mount and click the MX switch and then set it again. It takes time, but I bet you will love the result. So enjoy the procedure!
*・Multiple Exposure(MX) ～Expose with flowers *
This is my favorite – MX with flowers! Please try this as well. (Also, please refer my article about MX techniques on shooting flowers here!) First, shoot flowers during the daytime. What I do is to shoot a whole roll of just flowers. Once finished, rewind and put the very same film in the camera and take it out for another shoot. That way you can keep shooting what you like to shoot☺
Did the title give it away? Yes, you’re going to be using the flash for MX!
When snow falls I usually use the flash to capture the snow in my shot. The flash is a good tool to capture the snow because snow will reflect light from the ice particles. By using flash you’ll get ethereal snow illuminations in your shot. Even at night, without snow, you can also use the flash to capture MX of people and scenery. Make sure to tell people to stay still while exposing the photo. You can use flashes like the Colorsplash Flash, actually any flash would do just fine. Please try! It’s fun ☺
Try film soup if you’d like to step into this psychedelic realm of film. In this technique called film soup, you can add an extra chemical reaction to your film so as to get extreme results at night.☺(Stay tuned for my info. on film soup!）
Has a film swap been among your analogue endeavors thus far? It’s fun! Put a spin on the popular Lomography film swap by shooting an entire roll of night-time long exposure shots and sending the finished roll to someone else for them to shoot another set of long exposure shots on the same film, resulting in MX shots! I prefer night-time long exposure film swaps to regular day-time film swaps. They’re much more successful☺ If you have the chance, please try this!
Hope this helps you! Night scenes are much more mysterious than you think! Go grab your camera and shoot some night scenes with this article as your guide ☺ Enjoy your LX life!
And, belated seasonal greetings☺ Merry X’mas!
You can also find more of hodachrome’s articles here:
- Multiple Exposures with Flowers!
- Shoot with Redscale in Overcast Weather!
- Tipster: How to Take Symmetrical Images with Exposing Both Sides of the Film (EBS)
- Enjoy Lomography even more with Lomography Splitzer!
- Life's Daily Photo Walk with MX Skills