Pittsburgh Light Trails – A Closer Look

When you search for light trails, sprawling roads and beautiful cityscapes are the standard type of images that populate the results (like the image above).  Those are a lot of fun but I wanted to create something a little different, something a little more up close and personal.  I’ve been working on this project for a couple of years now, off and on (more off than on) and just recently picked it back up again.

pittsburgh, light trails, long exposure,

Personal projects are supposed to be tough, they are supposed to push you beyond your limits and help you grow in your discipline.  If you have created light trails photography before you’re probably familiar with the challenge of creating images like this with continuous trails in the middle of the city.  Stop signs and signal lights means cars are constantly coming to a stop, which means their trail ends, and then you have a dark blob right in the middle of your image.  Overcoming this challenge as well as the challenge of finding dynamic scenes in the heart of the city are the most difficult aspects of this project.

Light Trails, Nikon D810, Long exposure, cityscape, neon lights, pittsburgh

You can create light trails with just about any camera that allows you to adjust the settings manually.  Most of the images you see here range in exposure time from just a couple of seconds to almost a minute.  The camera I used is really just whichever camera I had with me at the time.  So far this has included the Nikon D810, D850, Leica M262, and the Leica M10.  But in all honesty, you could create beautiful light trail with your iPhone if you felt so inclined.

boston, light trails, cityscape, long exposure

Most of the light trail images I do consist of a number of 2 to 6 second exposures stacked in Photoshop in order to fine tune the trails.  You’ll find rouge trails, weird lines where light reflects from the windows or shiny parts of cars, and the odd glow from time to time so it is important to take time in Photoshop to clean the final image of anything too distracting.  In many of the scenes it is possible to get a single longer exposure frame that would have just a few light trails (if you’re willing to spend a lot more time in one spot) but the success rate is low and when you combine the light trails from many stacked images you end up with a much more dramatic/interesting photograph.

street photography, light trails, long exposure, leica m10


Light Trails, Leica M10, Street Photography, Urban Landscape


Light trails, urban landscape, street photography,


pittsburgh, light trails, long exposure, cityscape, street photography


pittsburgh, light trails, urban landscape, long exposure, nikon d810


pittsburgh, light trails, long exposure, urban, cityscape


pittsburgh, light trails, long exposure, urban landscape, cityscape

As I mentioned, I’ve really been spending a considerable amount of time working on this project lately and have learned a ton.  The images will continue to improve and I’ll share them here at PhotolisticLife.com and on Instagram (just search @PhotolisticLife on Instagram).  In fact, I share many of the photos I use here on Instagram well before I publish them on the site as well as many photos I never publish on the site.  Head over to Instagram and follow me to see what I’m working on and where I’m traveling.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading.

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