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21 Oct 2013

Night photography in a small city like Singapore has one advantage, which is the abundant amount of difference light sources around us at night (e.g. street lights, traffic lights, building lights, lighted sign-boards, etc.) that will allow creative zooming light burst effects to be created.
Following my post on the night cityscape of Singapore yesterday, I've actually tried out zooming light burst effect of the cityscape and it turned out to be amazingly creative.

Equipment and Setup

The equipment and setup is no different from taking a night cityscape shot as shared in my post yesterday. However, a zoom lens is definitely needed. In my case, I've used my EOS EF24-105mm F/4L IS USM lens to create the zooming light burst effects.

How to Create the Zooming Light Burst Effect

The zooming light burst effect is created by the manual zooming of the lens when the shutter opens for the duration of the exposure. Here are some consideration factors when trying it out:

Smooth Zooming

Zooming in or out create different perspective and effects. Whichever the case, you need to practice on a smooth zoom i.e. meaning turning the zoom lens at a constant speed. If the zooming is not smooth, the picture may end up with jerky light trails that may not look nice.

It may be difficult to maintain a smooth zoom if you have a zoom lens with wide focal length (e.g. 18-200mm) that require turning the lens barrel for almost a full round. So in this case, you don't have to zoom all the way - work on a more comfortable focal length range where a smooth zoom can be maintained.

Pause and Hold the Zoom

The camera will collect more light when a pause is made at any point of the zooming (e.g. at the start of the zoom, halfway during the zoom or end of the zoom), making the light burst at the point of zoom appears stronger in the picture taken.

For example in the picture below, I took a 1 second pause at the end of my zoom which will allow more lights to be collected at that point, thus making the cabin from Singapore Flyer more visible.

Where possible, try to avoid camera shake during the zooming process. You do not have to rush through the zoom, a smooth and steady zoom is better. If there is camera shake, you may end up with jerky light trails and the background picture may not be sharp.

Aperture and Exposure Time Required

I typically work on the exposure time required which is made up of the time needed for a smooth zooming and the pause time required - in my case, 2 seconds for the zooming action plus 1 second for the pause at the end.

Knowing that my exposure time, I switch to Shutter Priority (Tv mode) and let the camera meters the aperture needed at for a 3 seconds exposure @ ISO-100. If the camera cannot meter the aperture because a wider aperture beyond what the camera can handle is needed (i.e. you see the aperture value blinking), I will then step up the ISO to a value that can be metered by the camera.

This will gauge my starting point for further adjustment which in my case, the camera metered a value of F/4 for a 3 seconds exposure @ ISO-400.

Fire Flash to Freeze Part of the Image

You can also try out firing a flash during the exposure time to freeze part of the image along with the light burst. For example, you are trying to create a zooming light burst effects on the lightings of a Christmas tree with a person next to it and you also want to capture the person vividly along with the light burst, you can fire a flash to "freeze" the person in your picture while zooming.

Note: This technique can also be tried in broad daylight, not necessary only at night with light sources.

Go try it, it's fun!

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