To create a standard long exposure at night you will need: DSLR Camera (Bulb Mode) A Tripod, A Shutter Release (For exposures over 30 seconds). Long exposures are mainly used at night time but can be done In the day time with an ND filter or an Infrared Filter but we are here to discuss night time long exposures.
Standard Long Exposures
This exposure is a standard 30 second exposure in full moon at f/5.6 using a Sigma 15mm Fisheye lens. All I really did was compose the image and shoot. The light from the moon did all of the work, the same shot with no moon in the sky would have come out very dark so atmospheric lighting is an important factor in standard long exposures.
Here is another standard long exposure of an old telephone box.
This exposure was 10 seconds long at f/5.6
The interior light from the top of the phone box did all of the work
The light inside the phone box is correctly exposed where as the
exterior of the box is almost black apart from where the light
is shining outwards.
This is a great effect and can be used to your advantage
When creating your first standard exposure you may not have a shutter release yet so you will have to pick your subject matter quite carefully to get an image that is not greatly underexposed. Most people start with a traffic trail for 30 seconds off a motorway bridge or even the road outside of your house. This will give you a good feel for long exposures and help you to learn how to focus properly and get a good composition in your images.
This doesnt mean your images have to be boring or generic. Take this image below, literally a 5 second exposure whilst I was waiting for a car to pass so I could create another shot, you never know what sort of effect you will get so I always take a picture when a car goes past or someone walks past with a torch. As the car drove past it's headlights perfectly illuminated the trees and the ground leaving a small white streak followed by the small red streak from it's rear lights.
When shooting with a shutter release you can make your exposures as long as you wish and start exploring in to star trials which I will talk about in the next section of the guide. This image below was shot in the exact same way as the above just for a longer period of time. I composed my shot carefully knowing that traffic would pass through the exposure at some point. Then at the end of the exposure I have some interesting traffic trails as well as some star trails, but still only using standard exposure techniques.
Remember when shooting for long periods of time you may need to turn on your noise reduction which can be found in the menu and also don't forget that your exposure will have to be slightly longer than if you were adding artificial light.