This Long Exposure Photography turns Traffic Lights into Installation Art

German photographer Lucas Zimmermann has found a way to turn traffic lights into art. He does so by capturing stunning images of their red, yellow and green lights extending out into pure darkness, and compiling them in a two-part series entitled Traffic Lights.

Lucas produced the images in thick, night-time fog. The resulting series is testament to the notion that the right conditions can turn anything into objects of wonder.


We sat down with Lucas and got to know how this inspiration was first started.

THE PLUS: Take us back to the first time you saw that traffic lights had a potential for photography. What was that like?
Lucas Zimmerman:
That night, I felt a little down and just went outside to take some pictures of fog and light. I always felt drawn to lighting moods and atmospheres that are created via light. When I drove down the road outside of Weimar, and had to wait at the traffic lights, I was drawn into the scenery and just felt like experimenting with the given setting.

TP: What is the technique you used to create these images?
It’s just a basic long exposure. The pictures were taken with exposures between eight and thirty seconds. All the other settings were set around that.


TP: You mention on your website that “the possibility that light is visible in fog fascinates you”, why is that?
Well for me fog is like a screen but instead of giving light a flat, 2D surface it creates this amazing 3D impression. It helps to understand light and the way it merges and behaves much better. It makes the invisible visible. The room between the light source and the object. In short, it gives a body to light, makes it feel alive.

TP: How does the contrast between the red, yellow and green lights compliment the dark surrounding?
Well they could have been any colours. Every colour works well in low-key images. It’s the known colours of traffic lights that make the image more accessible for the viewer and help to make the unknown known.


TP: You said you had to wait two years to continue the series. Why did it take so long and what are the conditions needed to work with these lights?
You need very thick fog. In the area I live in, there is some fog in autumn but usually just not enough for good results. If you look at photographer Mark Broker for example, who lives in Hamburg, you will find much more foggy photography purely to the fact that there is much more fog in Hamburg than in Weimar.

TP: Do you think you’ll continue the Traffic Light series?
I already did a third part of the series but never felt like uploading it. If the conditions allow it, I will do more pictures for the series. But in the end, I am not sitting around waiting for that to happen. There are more things to explore in life.