The Art of Running: LED Traces

The Art of Running: LED Traces

I love the tracing where I’ve run.

Until now, with The Art of Running I’ve typically used a GPS device to leave a virtual trace, a set of coordinates which can then be overlaid on a digital map (such as Google Earth) to bring the run to life online.

It was during the short winter days and long dark evenings (when I would typically run) that I had the idea to illuminate my path using LEDs. Teaming up with an LED specialist in Akihabara, I began to kit myself out with metres of lights, powered by some hefty batteries I’d carry around my waist.

The initial motivation came from wanting to bring the same smiles and laughter to people’s faces at night that I had done in the day. It turned out to be extremely effective; provided I had enough power on me I could light up both the streets – and people’s faces late into the night.

Returning home one night in my gear I decided to experiment with some long-exposure shots using my DSLR, mounted on a tripod, with a 10 second exposure. The results were pretty interesting, resulting in a whole new style of trace. Below are some of my favourites.

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Meiji Jingu Fireworks Display

A few photos taken from the balcony tonight of the fireworks display at Meiji Jingu. I’m quite impressed by what even relatively cheap cameras are capable of these days – these were taken 2.5 miles/4km from the launch site.

Nikon D7000

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It’s been three years since I bought my first Digital SLR camera. In the summer of 2007, just before my 9,000 mile trip by land from Japan to the UK, I invested in the Nikon D40x – an entry-level model that allowed me to get back to being creative with my photography, without breaking the bank.

Fast forward to 2010 and I’m back in Tokyo, surrounded by geeky friends armed with DSLRs that are leagues ahead of the D40x. Mostly in the prosumer category, these cameras are capable of stunning results in low light, something my old Nikon failed spectacularly at. Seeing the results online made me think about upgrading – the question was, how much was a I prepared to invest? The popular choice amongst my friends was the Nikon D700 – it was the D700 that @J3SSL33 kindly leant me for last week’s hugely successful Rock Challenge photo project). A beautiful camera indeed, but at about 220,000 yen (£1,700) it was beyond what I wanted to pay. Also, at almost 1 kilogram in weight it wasn’t as portable as I would have liked.


Two weeks ago I walked into Yodobashi Camera to see what the alternatives were, and what should I see but the brand new Nikon D7000. Released only a couple of months back, it has got rave reviews.

  • “Nikon’s most advanced camera at any price”
  • “The Nikon D7000 has technical performance better than every other Nikon DSLR priced under $7,500, and handles better than any Nikon DSLR, regardless of price.”

Hmm, seemed like this was the one to get. Unlike the D700 it can shoot full HD video, it weigh’s less, it has two SD card slots (not compact flash, meaning I can use Eye-fi cards), it shoots 6fps as oppose to 5fps …and at 130,000 yen (about £1,000) it costs about 90,000 yen less!

The big difference, other than price? It doesn’t have a full frame sensor. But I can live without that – the sensor it does have (XPEED 2 CMOS – 16.2mp 23.6 x 15.6mm) produces stunning results (and HUGE files – 20mb for the average RAW file, 10mb for JPEGs).

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So, yesterday I picked up both the Nikon D7000 and a 50mm f/1.8 lens. The lenses that came with my D40x work great on the new camera, so I now have a really nice set of three.

I’ve not really had a chance to use it yet, except for a few shots taken in the park this morning.

I must say, I’m delighted to once again have a great camera to hand. I love photography, but the last year has seen me almost stop altogether as I became increasingly disappointed with the D40x’s performance. I look forward to picking it up again!