A Night Drive

motorway lights

On our journey back from Devon last week, I amused myself with taking some abstracts of the view from my window.  I hasten to add that my husband was driving, not me!

motorway lights

This technique is very easy.  I manually focused beyond the window, then selected a reasonably narrow aperture (between f.14 – f.20) and a low ISO (most of these are at ISO 100).  This gave me shutter speeds of between 8 and 20 seconds; perfect to get light streams and to even out the impact of some of the inevitable bumps.  I also dialled in some negative exposure compensation. Then I sat the camera on the dashboard and pressed the shutter.

motorway lights

I used self-timer too, although as the camera is sitting in a moving vehicle, there will be some movement so any improvement to the shots from using self-timer is minimal.

motorway lights

It’s great practice for a photographer who usually likes control. You have to let go with photography like this. That’s part of the fun.  Who am I kidding?  It’s all of the fun.

motorway lights

Here I have concentrated on images where the dominant colour is amber (street lights). These images do not really work on their own so well but, as a set, or maybe the best three as a triptych, they have more merit.  At least, I think they do…

motorway lights

So, if you had to choose, which three do you think might work best together?  I am pretty sure I like no.s 2 and 3, but not sure about the third choice…

By the way, I used the Sony NEX-7 for all of these and I think it’s done a fair job.  In particular, I think the image stabilisation has coped marvellously with the vibrations from the car.  Also, a DSLR would not fit on the dashboard.

Winter abstracts


When winter closes in and the bare bones of trees are revealed, I like to create abstract images using ‘intentional camera movement’, or ‘panning’.

trees panned

This technique is very easy.  Simply select a slowish shutter speed and move the camera while the shutter is open.  It helps to start the movement before pressing the shutter and to  finish just after the exposure, to avoid jerky shapes in the image, unless that is what you’re after, of course!  I also find the results generally much more pleasing if you move the camera in the direction of the dominant shape in your view, so vertically for trees.

panned forest

Trees are not the only subject for this sort of technique.  I have also panned landscapes, although there I move the camera horizontally rather than vertically.  But winter forests do seem to be particularly suitable subjects.

I couldn’t resist including a mysterious figure in the last two images.   The final one is for my son’s horror film project.

panned winter forest

Do you ever play around with this technique?  Please feel free to share your panned/camera movement images or other winter abstracts in the comments below; I would love to see them!