Back in March, we posted the above photo--a long-exposure image of EDSA--on our Facebook page. Also called slow-shutter photography, the process produces pretty amazing visuals. We found the picture so amazing, in fact, that we had to ask the sender if he could take more photos of Metro Manila traffic using this method.
The photographer, Mark Oliver Mercader, excitedly agreed and proceeded to do this project he calls "Light Trails."
Mercader is an Information Technology graduate and now works as a "court employee." He is also a freelance landscape photographer for a trekking apparel brand.
"My camera gear consists of a Canon 5D Mk II, a Canon 600D and a Canon 17-40mm f/4L," Mercader shares. He got his training from the RMEVS Film Photography Club of the Ramon Magsaysay Evening Vocational School in España, Manila. He trained for six months.
Back then, he was using film.
"There was no option of clicking away, checking the LCD, and trying again," he recalls. "With film photography, I felt far more involved in the shots that I was taking. I also knew I wasn't letting the electronic brain of a digital camera do all the work for me. With the help of a film camera, I really began to understand the concepts of ISO, exposure, aperture and taking time to get the right shot."
After reading the comments on our Facebook page, Mercader now wants to share long-exposure photography tips with others.
* Shoot at night. "One of the reasons I love shooting light trails at night is because it makes the city come alive. As the traffic situation in Metro Manila is getting worse, I manage to make artwork out of it. Even in the worst or poorest of circumstances, we can still create beauty."
* Preparation is key. "What attracts me to long-exposure photography is that this field takes time to fully master, and I love to explore not just its simple and basic technicalities but also its heart. With a tripod, a remote shutter release, and a DSLR camera that allows you to play around with the manual mode, you'll be ready to capture some of the most colorful and liveliest images you've ever seen."
* Know where to position yourself. "I always love to shoot from a footbridge or any higher place as this will give you a nice vanishing point of light trails. Find a spot where you can capture opposite lanes of traffic so you get both red and white light trails. It is much better if two colors are overlapping. I love shooting in places with busy junctions and intersections as this produces a large amount of light."
* Here's the trick. "First, set your ISO level to 100. A good starting point for measuring the length of exposure is to time how long it takes for a number of cars to pass through the scene, then set your shutter speed to this time. The longest shutter speed of a DSLR camera may reach up to 30 seconds, but I can manage to get up to two minutes if I want to capture the effects of the light trails on different directions of a busy intersection. I always keep my aperture at f/18 to f/22 as this will give me a bursting effect of the lights on lamp posts, and keep the image very sharp."
"I want to pursue my passion to inspire people," Mercader says. "I just want to see a smile on their faces. I, too, struggled at photography initially. I did not produce the images you see now by taking just one single photograph--I took hundreds. I took the same shot over and over with minor variations--a little more light, a little less light, from a low angle, from a high angle, vertical, horizontal. You get the idea."
Check out the photos he submitted to us for our casual "assignment." Impressed? Grab your camera and try this on your own using the tips laid out above. Have fun!
Photos by Mark Oliver Mercader