Freeway Long Exposures 2 Preview (and Dilemma)

Last night I was out with friends at a spot(s) I had eyed before. Last time I was shooting long exposure photos from the freeway overpass near my house, I thought it’d be cool to shoot a similar photo with a more interesting background. Well, Irvine doesn’t have a lot of ‘interesting backgrounds’… but a while back I was driving across an overpass and glanced out and saw something. There’s a few business buildings that are maybe ~30 stories tall on the west end of Irvine, near the airport. I figured they’d make a nice backdrop for the freeway long exposures.

So I went back there last night. Harvard Ave and 405 for locals. There was a problem: a huge fence so people don’t jump or throw things on the freeway. You can see traces of the fence on my previous shots too, and they’re annoying!!

So what did I do? I put my camera on my tripod, fully extended, put a 12 second timer on the camera, pre-focused to infinity, pressed the trigger, then held the entire assembly high over the maybe 10ft fence, leaning the camera against the top of the fence for maximum stability. The tilting screen helped me frame. My friend and I must’ve looked ridiculous to people driving by.

Well, since I was taking 5second+ exposures, there was no way I was going to get clean shots at max resolution, but I got a couple that are ‘acceptable’ in a smaller size.


Now here’s the dilemma: in post-processing, I got two versions. A slightly brighter version that shows the color of the sky better and a darker higher-contrast version.


Which version do you prefer?

I was trying to frame it so the freeway ends at the upper right thirds point with the buildings and electric poles providing some background. I wanted to get there a bit earlier around sunset, but was a bit late. I still got some drama in the skies though. Photo with a Panasonic 14-45mm lens at f/8, ISO 200, 3stop ND, and CPL. I noticed that the ND not only allows longer exposures, but it reduces the strength of each light in the exposure. I’ll discuss this further in my next post!

Photos from a food truck gathering and the next overpass down the freeway to come!


15 thoughts on “Freeway Long Exposures 2 Preview (and Dilemma)

      • The first one has more details in it, that’s why I prefer it. Also, I noticed that depending on the device from which I look at them, the pictures will have a very different look… A question of screen contrast range and so on… For example, on my iPad mini, the second one is really dark, losing much of the detail in the picture. That’s why I originally discarded it. On my laptop screen, the pictures are almost identical, with the second one being only a bit darker, but with still a fair amount of detail retained, making it a worthy candidate again… So I guess people’s choice will also depend on the quality of their screen 😀

  1. Would prefer the second one if the streaks of lights are brighter. Otherwise for now I would pick first one

  2. I prefer the one with the brighter sky. You can see more. The lights underneath the highway are a little brighter. It could be an office building or a train. Keep them guessing. Thanks for the visit and the like of my post “Iris Breaking Out”.

      • You would no better than I whether they appear washed out. It just was intrigue to me. I thought is that a train running underneath? Oh no, maybe it’s an office building. I liked the question that arose from the picture.

  3. Pingback: Street Long Exposures Again | skpfoto

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