Photographing light trails (or light streams) was one of the first tricks I learned. I thought this one was of the coolest things ever and would get very excited when one turned out just right. I have to confess I have not outgrown the light stream technique. I might add not much effort has been put into curbing this.
London is great to Photograph Light Trails not because the city is overrun with traffic, but because the iconic double-decker bus lends itself beautifully to this little trick. Think of it as an adventure when you are wondering the things to do in London. Where can you find the best places to do this?
6 Best Places to Photograph Light Trails in London
Stand in the middle of the street, and don’t be surprised if a bus driver fusses at you. Also be aware the buses will pass you closely. It is not dangerous, just be prepared (and at ease) with traffic flowing on both sides of you. And, as the buses pass by there will be a rush of wind so be certain your camera equipment is secure. You don’t want it crashing into the pavement.
This has been made a bit more tricky since the pedestrian walkways changed, though still entirely doable. The best part about night photography in Oxford Circus is the cross traffic. Buses flow along Oxford Street and Regent Street. If you use a long enough exposure, you’ll capture crossing light streams, which you can see in the photo below. Also keep in mind buses turn which adds another interesting element to your image. Nighttime is an ideal time as there are few pedestrians in the area so you’ll not be in the way of anyone. By all means, avoid rush hour as it’s a madhouse during this time.
Any corner of the Cambridge Circus area is interesting. I like the Palace Theatre as a backdrop, especially if the theatre sign is interesting. Obviously, my photo is from years ago. Today Harry Potter plays at the Palace Theatre. Traffic flows heavily through this Central London thoroughfare. Seldom do I carry a tripod in London. I rely on lamp posts, traffic light posts or guard railings
Almost anywhere here is good. I particularly like the northeast part either facing toward Shaftesbury Avenue or Regent Street. The road configuration of Piccadilly Circus seems to constantly change. Despite the confusion, there are always spots where you can stop with your camera and not be in anyone’s way. That said, the Piccadilly area is in constant motion. When I say constant motion, I don’t simply mean traffic on the road. A lot of people congregate in this area. I don’t recommend using a tripod. Be creative in the way you steady your camera.
In particular, I like the middle of Whitehall and Westminster Bridge Road with Elizabeth Tower and Westminster Palace as a backdrop. In the middle, there is a huge metal “box.” I’m sure this box is the control of the traffic lights. No matter what it is, it serves you kindly when you need a sturdy surface to steady your camera. Move around the square! Parliament Square is sort of interesting though it does not provide the best angles for light streams. Also, try the back corner of Westminster Abbey (closest to Westminster Palace). I’ve captured some great images of passing double-decker buses with Big Ben in the background. (The image below is part of my London Art Photography Collection and is available for purchase.)
Do you want Elizabeth Clock Tower in the background? This is the place. Actually, walk on the bridge where the Thames River is. If you face West, Big Ben will be across the road on your left. There are so many buses passing by, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to capture your photo. There are usually a lot of people on the bridge, most with selfie sticks. Be careful in this area especially if you plan to use a tripod.
This list will continue. In the meantime, what are your favourite places to photograph light streams in London? Feel free to share your own London light stream photos. I’d love to see them.
You might also like the Gentleman’s Guide to the Best Places To Photograph London.