This weekend was rare, neither Raudel nor I had any prior commitments or plans. It was an entirely open weekend, free to do whatever we wanted, sleeping in included!

Always looking to explore and take photos, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to venture out and try some long exposure photography right here in Austin, Texas. It is something that I was interested in, yet had never done, and something we had never done together. It also presented itself as a great date night idea, so it was a win-win hehe.

My favorite view

In the most basic nut shell, long exposure photography is simply taking a photo over a long period of time. This is accomplished by slowing down (and I mean really slowing down) the shutter speed on your camera. Typically when we’re taking photos, we want our shutter speed to be fast, like hundredths to thousandths of a second fast. This is what freezes the action, catches the moment, or stops time. On the flip side, in long exposures, the shutter is open for a larger duration of time, usually seconds to even hours, with the intent to create some sort of motion or blur, or simply gather more light into the camera in low light situations.

This is what creates those creamy looking waterfalls, surreal atmospheric skies, and stunning stars and light trails you see in some photographs.

I had done a little research on the subject so I wasn’t going in blind, but at the same time I really wanted to test myself as a photographer. I think I’m one of those people who learns best through trial and error so I had no problem sort of “winging” it. Plus I had Raudel there if I needed help (thanks babe!)

I had decided on two locations, the 360 Overlook with a view of the Pennyback Bridge (the parking along Capital of Texas Highway Loop 360) and South Congress Avenue with a view of the Capitol and the Frost Tower, with the goal of creating light trails from the moving cars (kind of cliché but whatevs)

Just getting started here. I’m working out AT LEAST 3 or 4 things at this point in my head, including: determining the best camera settings, learning the traffic light timing, deciding on photo framing and overall composition.

360 Highway overlook was first on Friday night. We headed out a little before sunset so we could catch some of the sky in the background before it got too dark. Once we got to the overlook and parked on the shoulder, right off Capital of Texas Highway Loop 360, it was time to setup the tripod and compose the photo and boy was it windy that night. I found my spot, secured my camera, set my shutter speed, ISO and aperture and started shooting, adjusting my settings as needed.

It finally got dark enough and I was able to capture my first light trails, I was so excited! We kept shooting until we were just about the only ones left on the overlook. Looking back, there are several things I would have done differently, technically and creatively, but the number one thing I would have changed was my composition. I think I got so excited about my light trails that I totally neglected to really take a look at everything else going on in the photographs. Live and learn I guess!

Those lights and that cotton candy sky, I’m in love!

Saturday night we headed out to South Congress Avenue. I totally blanked that it was bat season so there were tons of people on the bridge which didn’t leave much room for me, Raudel and our tripods. It was a little scary being SO close to traffic and the road so I tried to stay as aware of my surroundings as possible. After a few shots we ended up crossing to the other side of the road until all the bat people left and I’m so happy we did because it gave us another perspective to work with. Again, I composed my photo, set my shutter speed, ISO, and aperture and started shooting. The light trails looked awesome and the bright lights of city was absolutely beautiful against the night sky! These photos are by no means perfect, and I definitely need more practice, but overall I was pretty happy myself! Especially for my first try with long exposures.

Escaping the crowd and seeking refuge on the other side of the road!
Who knew bus lights could look so cool!
An ambulance going by made for some pretty spectacular trails, let’s hope everyone was OK!

It was a weekend of firsts, full of great learning experiences and quality time with Raudel doing what we love. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, it’ll be worth it in the end I promise, I’m living proof! Where will we bring our camera’s next? Until next time y’all!

female photographer shooting long exposure south congress bridge
While I was busy photographing the scene, Raudel was busy trying to catch a good angle of me

6 Responses

  1. That’s crazy that the street lights turn into 18 pointed stars. I wonder why that is

  2. Awesome and truly amazing photos, Ash!!! Such talent…keep up the beautiful work! Love you!!

  3. So the 18 pointed stars are caused by the diaphragm inside the lens. In most of the photos, Ashley used a Canon 16-35mm lens that has a diaphragm made up of 9 curved blades. Each blade produces 2 opposite points of light but sometimes the points overlap. The sharpness of the points of light varies depending on how curved the blades are at the aperture being used.

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