This video shows you how to take psychedelic abstract long exposure photographs of Christmas lights. You'll want to set your camera's shutter speed to to BULB mode and use your camera's pop-up flash (or external flash), then spin yourself around in front of your Christmas tree. It helps if all the lights are turned off in the room except for the Christmas tree lights.
Here are the six different tricks. There will be an image on top, and an description underneath each image.
Spin either in a chair or while standing up. Try not to move your arm, hand, or head while doing this, because it will cause unwanted camera-shake. You can experiment moving your arm up and down or something if you want to, it just will give you a different effect.
Hold your camera by the lens out in front of your with your right hand, twist just like you did in the first trick, only this time take your left hand and move your camera so it zooms in and rotates at the same time. If you do this several times, you should eventually get a result where the lines will twirl around you, like you are in some type of TRON video game or something. And hey, Photoshopping your face using the Liquify tool to make you look like an alien never hurts.
Use a star filter screwed on the front of your camera lens. This will slice and the light into thin lines. This looks cool when you twirl the filter around your lens as well because the stars will appear to be "twinkling".
Use manual focus, still in bulb mode, and simply move your camera around your Christmas tree while the exposure is taking place. You will end up with really techy-yet-beautiful abstract photographs that you can use in backgrounds for Photoshop projects or the like.
Put your camera on a tripod and zoom in while the exposure is taking place.
If you have a higher end DSLR (I'm using a Nikon D300s) there may be a Multiple Exposure function somewhere in the camera's menu. I like to set it to ten and then take several exposures, each shot at a different focal length.
Drawing with light is extremely easy and fun. Simply wait until night time, put your camera on a tripod, and set your exposure for long periods of time (these are usually 5 seconds-5minutes), your aperture, and ISO. I usually use f4 at iso 200 or 400, but these settings need to be determined differently according to each situation. Then, DRAW! There are many different light toys that create different effects. Things that have been used before include sparklers, glow sticks, flashlights, maglights, fire/torches, RGB strips, Christmas lights, illuminated cell phones, iPods, laser pens, and of course, any kind of LED.
If you are interested in incorporating long exposure effects and light painting into your night photography, I would highly recommend "Night Photography & Light Painting" by Brent Pearson, especially if you are light painting landscapes.
Long Exposures During Day
You can also create long exposures of landscapes during they DAY by using an extremely dark filter that attaches to the front of your lens. The filter you can use is a B+W filter, an ND400 filter (I'd recommend this one), or even an Infrared filter. Taking long exposures during the day is useful for creating foggy/ghostly seascapes, blurring clouds, blurring water and waterfalls, and even removing people from a scene (if they are constantly moving).
These are a great challenge, and the best part is, you don't know what the photograph will look like until after you've taken it. You will need to have your camera on a tripod, manually focus to infinite, use the widest aperture you can and a low ISO. If you want to take 20+ minute long exposure, you will need to buy a cable release made for your specific DSLR. However, taking super long exposures can cause a lot of noise in images. An alternative wave to doing star trails is to take a bunch of 30 second exposures and then overlap all the images on your computer using a program called Startrails. There is a minor drawback to this method: for every 30 seconds of an exposed photo, there is a 1-2 second time period where the camera isn't taking an exposure. This makes it so there are little tiny spots not visible in your star trail. It is a very minor drawback, but ultimately it is a better method because there isn't as much noise.
Other Fun Long Exposures
There are also other things you can do with long exposure photography. Long exposures during the day allow water and clouds to blur, leafs on a tree will also blur (if there is wind). In addition, you can also take a long exposure in a very crowded city where lots of people are walking, and completely make the crowd invisible by taking a long exposure during that day.
You can also use a long exposure and then fire multiple flashes to light your subject in different ways, and/or to multiply them in number. You can also spin your camera to take perfect straight blurred out lines, or you can zoom in and out with your lens while the exposure is taking place.
Long exposures also come in handy during lightning, simply take a long exposure and wait for the lightning to show up.
The challenge: create a long exposure that has all of the above. Light painting, light spraying, star trails, and lightning; all in one photograph. (Okay, I realize it would be hard to get lightning, but try to include them all if you can 😉
Because long exposure photography is such a large topic, there is only so much I can write in a blog post. If you want to know more information on lights, techniques and effects, check out my Trick Photography and Special Effects eBook. It has over 60 pages of content solely dedicated to light painting techniques and long exposure effects.