Blazing Light Trails

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January 2021 Photo & Video

Since spiking COVID-19 numbers have kept me off the hiking trails, I decided to try light trails instead. Sometimes the best way to learn is to experiment, so I snapped about fifty images in my office-turned-studio and sixty outside, shortly after dusk.

My app would open the shutter for up to one second at a time, which was a good start while I learned to sling battery-powered Christmas lights around.

I captured these shots with an iPhone 12 Pro Max and Camera+ 2.

Outdoor tests

Turning a different direction, I discovered that the camera was sensitive enough to
capture the constellation of Orion.

Indoor tests

For most of my tests indoors, I set the lights on a spinning office chair and practiced managing it while holding the camera. That didn’t work, so I set up a tripod and set the app’s timer to take a photo three seconds after I tapped the button.

Several green lights illuminated the back of my chair as it spun.
Learning to spin by hand.
During the indoor shoot, one of my roommate’s cats volunteered to pose for a closeup.

Lessons learned

After an evening of vigorous tests, my index finger started to develop a blister from spinning the lights quickly and bare handed. I didn’t expect gloves would be important equipment.

While shooting outdoors, I used the app’s 10 second timer to let me get far enough after tapping the button. After experimenting, I learned to set a separate timer for 13 seconds to ensure that the one-second shutter had closed.

Next time I’ll play with timing and another app like Slow Shutter Cam.

Four AA batteries powered the Christmas lights. Stretched out, the string is about nine feet long.