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The range of possibilities for creative photography when you can control the shutter at will – to start and stop it whenever you want – is a vast and exciting one.

If pictures of lightning cleaving the night sky, stars leaving their astral trails, fireworks and light-painting evoking joy have amazed you, stay tuned to today’s Toecabulary posts that discuss the concept that makes the idea of such images a reality: the bulb mode.

The bulb mode can be accessed in the manual mode in most cameras, from which it follows that the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO have to be set manually. In some cameras it is available as a separate exposure-programme mode.

The bulb mode has two main uses. The first is to begin and end an exposure at will, without being locked in to a set shutter speed. One of the most important applications of this is when light-painting to capture fireworks.

In this image, the shutter was opened for as long as needed by employing the bulb mode, thus capturing the movement of the sparklers into this stunning shape. It is thus possible to achieve all sorts of interesting results using the bulb mode, and a little imagination.

The bulb mode can be accessed in the manual mode in most cameras, from which it follows that the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO have to be set manually. In some cameras it is available as a separate exposure-programme mode.

The bulb mode has two main uses. The first is to begin and end an exposure at will, without being locked in to a set shutter speed. One of the most important applications of this is when light-painting to capture fireworks.

In this image, the shutter was opened for as long as needed by employing the bulb mode, thus capturing the movement of the sparklers into this stunning shape. It is thus possible to achieve all sorts of interesting results using the bulb mode, and a little imagination.

As we have discussed in the previous posts, the biggest application of the bulb mode is shooting long exposure images. Capturing star trails is one of the funnest ways of using bulb mode and indeed, the sky is the limit for creative possibilities.

Because star-trails demand long exposures – in this case, an exposure of 18 minutes – the bulb mode was the ideal option to shoot the astral path. Also, it is best to use a remote to control the shutter while shooting star trails, since it’s impractical to keep the shutter-release button depressed for such long durations. Needless to say, a tripod is absolutely essential for stability.

Bulb mode is not only about lightning and star trails and all things celestial but is also about certain things beneath them. If you are someone who’s fascinated by the clouds shrouding the sky above stunning landscapes, you can use the bulb mode to blur them into surrealistic photographs with an exposure more than 30 seconds.

This image was created using the bulb mode, as well as a 10-stop neutral-density filter to cut off surplus light, thus avoiding overexposure.

So have fun with the bulb mode the next time you go out there to make images! Capture certain natural phenomena of the night sky, the joyful fireworks and so much more that this camera setting allows you to do into delightful frames.

Interested in improving your skills?

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