Warp Speed Ahead

Warp Speed Ahead: long exposure in a car tutorial.


Warp Speed Ahead is a little bit different than what I have been shooting as of late. I have always loved shooting long exposures, be it with water falls, star trails, light painting etc. This time, I figured  let’s throw a long exposure in a moving van and let’er rip!

What I love about long exposure photography is trying to pre-visualize what the out come of the exposure will be. This project was no exception, as every shot was different because the light changes as you drive through town.

Warp Speed Ahead

Nuts and Bolts

1. Bomb proof your tripod.

To maintain focus in the vehicle, the tripod needs to be as  secure as possible. I used a weight with twine tied to the center of the tripod to hold it still. As well, I tied the tripod to the left and right Holy S**t handles of the vehicle. Finally, each leg of the tripod had an ankle (foot) weight wrapped around them  Any movement of the tripod will cause blurry / soft pictures. So even while shooting do not touch the tripod.

2. Use a Remote Trigger

Trigger your camera with a remote shutter release. Fiddling with the shutter release button will add shake to the camera and you will have blurry pictures. The self timer will work if you don’t have a remote trigger.

3. Lens

I used a wide angle lens (Sigma 10-20mm) to get the whole dashboard of the vehicle in the shot. I tried a 40mm lens and I didn’t feel it was wide enough to give the whole “experience.” You can of course use any lens you want to achieve your “artistic vision.”

4. Settings

As with any shoot there are no guaranteed settings that will work in every situation. After playing with my settings and seeing the results, I decided that f/8,  10 second exposure at ISO 200 fit my artistic vision for the shot.  Use f/8 10seconds ISO 200 as a starting point, then play with those settings. The more you play with the settings the more you learn.  Those settings changed a week later while I shot driving in a different environment.

5. The “Right” Light

Once you get into this project you will learn pretty quickly what the right light for your artistic vision will be.

In long exposure photography, any stationary source of light will produce light trails when you drive by them. Some areas there are only street lights on the left side of the road, when this happens the light streaks are only on the left hand side of the picture making the picture seem unbalanced. As I shot the project I started to learn what made great light streaks and what didn’t work as well.

To get you started, here are two examples where  I deemed it wasn’t the “right light.”


Warp Speed Ahead too much light on left.Warp Speed not enough light.

The first example picture  is very unbalanced because there was too much light on the right half of the picture. This large white neon streak is from a car dealership sign. If possible try to think in segments of time (10 seconds in this instance) while watching what is ahead on the road.

In the  second example picture it is obvious that there wasn’t enough street lights to get a great “streak” of light.


There are so many different ways to shoot a long exposure in a car. The main thing is have fun with it and play around with the settings to get your artistic view.

Then it’s time to go Warp Speed Ahead!

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment box or email me.


Thanks for checking out Warp Speed Ahead. If you like what you see, browse around the site.

Leave a comment on this tutorial or suggest a topic for another tutorial.



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