On Saturday night I shot the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and night shooting amusement park rides is one of my favorite things to do. Long exposure shots of rides can produce some beautiful images and with today’s world of digital photography you can see the results right there as you shoot.
I’ve found most amusement parks, carnivals, fairs, etc. always very receptive to photography. Even with a tripod.
So to get a shot like this, you first need a tripod. You don’t have to have a cable release (you can use the timer on your camera) but a cable release is pretty helpful. In terms of cable releases I just use a fairly cheap but functional one, the Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3.
In terms of tripods I recommend that people don’t cheap out on these. Bad tripods break easily. I personally like the quality of the Manfrottos, but you will pay up for these. In any case, seriously consider a ball head tripod over other types as they are much easier to work with.
The reason why you want to use a cable release or at a minimum the timer setting on your camera is because there is an almost imperceptible amount of movement to the camera when you actually push the shutter with your finger. So even if you don’t have a cable release. Heck, even if you don’t have your tripod and have to position your camera sitting on a fence or railing or table or anything else solid, at minimum use your timer setting to get your shot.
So the key with a shot like this is to not over expose the lights. What this means is that you are going to be shooting in manual mode almost entirely. Typically I’ll want to shoot a lot of my night stuff at 100 ISO. 100 ISO of course doesn’t work at night with hand held shooting. But on a tripod it’s fine. You will also want to bump up the aperture. In terms of the shot above I was shooting at f/11. My exposure time on this shot was one second.
Now typically what I do when I try and get these shots is use the cable release to try all kinds of different times. I’m doing it by touch and feel so I’ll just keep firing a ton of shots off. Half a second, one second, 2 seconds, 10 seconds. After a few shots you get a feel for where the timing is right. Then I’ll shoot maybe 30 shots of the same image to have a wide selection of shots to choose a final exposure from later.
To see some other cool blur photography check out the blur tag sorted by awesomeness on Zooomr!
So that’s kind of the basics on how I get a shot like the one above. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’ll try and answer them.