<<< o >>>light trails 21 comments + add yours

It's not often that I'm a passenger in a car at night, but when I am I often sit there shooting out of the window, just playing around with the lights. 99 times out of a 100 I end up with pretty much what you'd expect – a blurry load of crap – but every once in a while I do get one that I like.

If you're interested, the original is here:


The post-production was mostly carried out in Camera Raw: I added some contrast and shifted the hue of some of the colours to broaden the colour palette.

On a different matter: if you didn't read my previous entry, I posted my initial thoughts on Topaz Detail, a plugin that does a great job of bringing out the detail in an image without introducing any obvious processing artefacts. If you haven't tried it I'd definitely suggest that you download the demo version and try it out.

focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
9.07pm on 27/2/10
Canon 5D Mark II
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
aperture priority
3x2 + travel [Dubai, UAE] + abstract + night shots
comment by Gu at 12:02 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

amazing curve trails! what are they???

comment by djib at 12:32 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Wonderful shot. The colour shift is excellent.

comment by Carlos Garcia at 12:46 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010


Both the original and this one are fun. This is great crap! ;)


comment by s. at 01:53 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

you should mention the real reason behind topaz bs, which is you being an affiliate, making money off our downloads. i don't mind supporting you in that way, but the true reason shouldn't be covered up by some stories about processing powers of this software.

comment by Jason at 02:31 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

I can't believe this was shot in a car! Such magnificent colours and patterns. It does not look like a photograph at all. What was it by the way...? The detail and definition is stunning.

comment by djn1 at 02:31 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

s.: If I didn't think it was worth mentioning, and I didn't use it myself, I wouldn't recommend it. However, I do use it - extensively in my recent work - and think it produces excellent results. Also, if you read back through my previous post, and this one, you'll see that I recommend that people should try the demo. I didn't ask anyone to send me money in unmarked envelopes ;)

So yes, we do have an affiliate account, subscribers to our tutorials get a 15% discount, and it's a great piece of software. Take a look at the examples I posted, and if you're not impressed, don't download it.

By the way, why are my most vocal critics all based in Toronto? ;)

comment by djn1 at 02:32 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Jason: it's a combination of car lights, traffic lights, and some background lights.

comment by s. at 02:50 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

maybe because ddoi set the bar too high ;)

comment by djn1 at 03:08 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

s.: I suspect there's a better, more accurate explanation ;)

comment by Chris at 04:37 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Very Colorful Dave. I often play with tail lights on cars or traffic cars when I am a passenger. Its fun to see what kind of patterns can result. I laugh at most of mine, some I do keep. This one is interesting, what were you shooting at?

Regarding the topaz lab comments, you will always have someone that is skeptical, or just looking for ways to stir commotion. I have been using topaz for over a year and a half and use it extensively. It definitely pulls out the details in a very efficient way. For the price of the plug-in, you cannot go wrong.

comment by djn1 at 07:17 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Chris: I was shooting the car lights and traffic lights in front of me. As for Topaz Detail: I agree, it can't be beaten. By the way, I presume you've already downloaded Topaz Detail 2? If not, then it's an improvement, not least because it runs a lot faster than the first version.

comment by Chris at 07:56 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Dave: I do have topaz detail version 2 and like it more than the first version. I also have topaz adjust version 3 and have to upgrade to version 4 sometime soon.

comment by djn1 at 08:00 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

Thanks Chris, I hadn't realised Topaz Adjust v4 was out. I'll download it now :)

comment by Dan Kaufman at 09:29 PM (GMT) on 11 March, 2010

yes, I too have shot a *few* of these slow exposures of car lights, etc., at night and therefore, of course, agree with ALL your comments...including that this one is a winner!

comment by Abhijit Dharmadhikari at 05:21 AM (GMT) on 12 March, 2010

Beautiful trails...lovely processing. Thanks for sharing this wonderful art, David!

comment by Zihg Nix at 01:21 PM (GMT) on 12 March, 2010

Great image. I have been doing the same thing for a couple of yrs now. I must have 3000+ images that were taken from my car (at night or at dusk/dawn). I've been developing a photo-art genre that I call, "Halogen Lightning". I venture out at night (coming or going), taking left's & right's at random, ending up who knows where and who knows when. Along the way, I fire off shots, totally at random in the direction of lighted strip malls, traffic intersections, lighted parking lots, the heavens, anything - at times I also find my way onto rural roads or roads w/ sparse traffic. I place my camera (Canon Rebel XT DSLR) on the dashboard (on top of a rubber cellphone strip for stability) and fire randomly at oncoming traffic and/or dimly lit stretches along the way. I'll usually snap around 100 pics each time I go out knowing that out of them, I'll keep perhaps 20-50 depending on where and when I go.
When all is said and done, I upload them and go to work.
Halogen Lightning is 1 part chance and 2 parts vision. I attempt to create a world out of pure random chance. Most of the challenge lay in making something out of what would otherwise seem like nothing.
This is my 1st visit here. I'll try to upload a couple of my images to see what you all think. :-)

comment by Alexandru Savu at 02:52 PM (GMT) on 12 March, 2010

Awesome photo.

comment by Adri at 04:43 PM (GMT) on 12 March, 2010

Wonderful shot. How did you get these circular shapes on the road ?

comment by Mirko Herzner at 05:45 PM (GMT) on 12 March, 2010

I should definetly try this 'genre' myself: Unfortunately my girlfriend doesn't have a driver license. Need to ask a friend...

I really like those colorful circles. This is a most impressive result for this random shooting style. When experimenting with lights at night I did often try zooming while the shutter is open... Nice results as well and a little more controllable. But yours is so rich of colors. Very good!

comment by Xavier Rey at 12:19 AM (GMT) on 13 March, 2010

wonderful world !!

comment by one way photo / Mark at 09:41 AM (GMT) on 13 March, 2010

Certainly a very graphic image - a superb effect!