Shoot Traffic Trails Without a Tripod

Lombard Street

Traffic trails on Lombard Street, San Francisco. HandlePod was secured to the railing lower left.

With digital cameras today you can shoot hand held in almost any light. There are situations, however, where hand holding the camera is absolutely impossible. Traffic trails on a busy street is one example. It is essential to stabilize the camera to prevent any shake. The best equipment to use is a sturdy tripod. But what if you don’t have one? The next best choice is a small tripod alternative that you can carry in a pocket and use on any available support. HandlePod fits the bill and will stabilize the camera for as long as it takes to get that perfect traffic trails shot. It opens up long exposure photographic possibilities without the weight and bulk of a tripod.

Any camera with manual controls capable of long exposures will work for shooting traffic trails. There are no rules for camera settings. A starting point might be ten or twenty seconds. The key is experimentation. Give enough time for traffic to pass through the scene depending on speed. Aperture will depend on ambient light. Adjust the aperture to get a proper exposure of the surrounding scene. A good time to shoot is just after sunset, the so-called “blue hour”. This will give the sky a pleasing blue rather than night black.

traffic trails multiple exposure

Multiple exposures of traffic trails in front of San Francisco City Hall.

What if there is not enough traffic to provide the results you want in any one exposure? This can happen with late night shots or stop lights that hold back traffic in one direction. The solution is to combine multiple exposures. Different software will accomplish this depending on your preference. Fusing several exposures in Photomatix will do it. Just tell it no when it asks if you want to eliminate ghosts. Stacking in Photoshop is another approach. However it’s done, combining multiple traffic trail shots can be an effective technique.

Check out Digital Photography School for more information on traffic trails. And don’t let lack of a tripod prevent you from shooting long exposure effects. HandlePod is light weight, easy to carry and lets you take photos that are impossible to hand hold. No tripod needed.

 

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