Creating Fanciful Shapes with Long Exposures

Astro Orbito

Astro Orbitor, Disneyland – Anaheim, California

The first day at Disneyland was tiring for the kids. Jet lag has taken its toll and the kids were in bed and asleep by 9pm. This gave me a perfect opportunity to go back to Disneyland by myself to get some night photographs of the Magic Kingdom. I used my small Sony NEX-5 to capture the family and their activities during the day. For this night-time shoot, I took the big camera, my Canon 7D with tripod. I got back into Disneyland about 10pm, and even at this late hour there were tons of people. So much so that the people would negatively impact the images I wanted to make of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I decide to save these crowded areas for later — hopefully near closing time at 12am, the crowds would thin out some and allow me to get some cleaner photographs. I headed over to Tomorrowland to see what I can capture.

The Astro Orbitor is the gateway to Tomorrowland and it was beckoning me with its fanciful structure, colors and light. I decided to take a wide-angle image of the structure on tripod. I knew the motion blur of the ride would create an interesting shape but I was blown away by the result. The color and light have produced a circular, three-dimensional glowing sculpture. The resulting design was much more interesting that I ever imagined. I had previously played with long exposures to create lights streaks from cars but this was something entirely new. Goes to show that sometimes, just trying something new could yield very interesting results. This has encouraged me to go down to the next State Fair (sometime in March in Austin) and see what other kinds of interesting shapes I can create with long exposures of carnival rides. On a side note, its amazing how short these rides actually are. I was taking several long exposures which lasted around 30 seconds each and noticed that I could only take 3 before the ride would stop. That means each ride basically runs for only a minute and a half. To think that people were waiting 20+ minutes for a 1 1/2 minute ride.

Just as a frame of reference, I’ve included a short video clip of what the Astro Orbitor looks like during the day time. Just click on the image below with the white dashed border. The rocket ship can be controlled by the rider to go up and down as the entire structure rotates. The lights in front of the space ships that move up and down created the cool swirly lights in the long exposure.

Astro Orbitor Movie Sample

Astro Orbitor Movie Sample

My Thought Process

I set the framing so the large spinning mass was evenly situated between the stationary “planet” decorations on either side. I also positioned the Orbitor so that I would minimize any people who may be in the frame. Having this structure at the bottom seems to nicely anchor the image for me. The photograph is easy to make. Just put the camera on a steady base such as a tripod and make sure the shutter is open long enough that it captures a lot of movement to get that nice motion blur. I took several images at different exposures to see which looked the best. Most looked about the same with slight variations in design. The one above is the one I liked the most. Make sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

Image Details

The photograph was taken in RAW with the Canon 7D with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. The only post processing was a bit of image sharpening.

Image 1: f13, 30 seconds, +2 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 10mm

5 thoughts on “Creating Fanciful Shapes with Long Exposures

  1. I love the night shot Andy. It would be fun to experiment there with some neutral density filters that let you get even slower shutter speeds.

    1. David. Great idea with the neutral density filters. I actually bought some from my Sony but I have not gotten any for my Canon lenses. More stuff to play with, it will be fun. Thanks for your visit and comment.

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