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Shooting Pictures from a Train

Shooting moving objects is one thing and shooting from a one is another. Take shooting from a train for example – you have limited space, view and there’s possible danger if you stick your head out a little too much. However, following these tips will ensure your pictures are framed well, technically sound and good to use by newspapers and magazines as well.

CC image courtesy of Molly Des Jardin

1. It’s best to be compact with your photographic equipment. If you can sling your camera around your neck and shoot pictures galore, there’s nothing like it… if you are traveling solo. If you are with a friend, then a bulky camera bag can best be kept by his side while you have a free go at the scenic images unfolding before you.

2. Rain should not be a deterrent for you to travel in trains, because off-seasons are also good for you to stay on the cheap and hang around when there are fewer people around. Another reason, being the cloud cover, will act as a natural reflector giving even tone and lighting for your photographic images. The rainy season is also when the landscape turns green from the previous brown, making your images celebratory.

3. It’s best to ask frequent travelers or the train staff which is the best side to be on for the best scenic shots. This way, you don’t miss out on the other side that had better views.

CC image courtesy of Ben Rimmer

4. If the landscape is too sunny, using a polarizing filter will help in darkening the blue skies and making the clouds stand out better.

5. Using a zoom lens is better than a prime lens in this case, because it’s difficult to change lenses when your subject is constantly on the move. Preferably an 18-105mm lens would be a better bet. Even a 70-300 zoom lens will be as good.

6. When you don’t know the correct shutter speed to ensure blurry-free images, the thumb-rule is putting it in Auto ISO mode and shooting at a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 of a second or faster. However, if you’re zoomed in at 200 mm for example, you should have a shutter speed of 1/200 second or faster.

CC image courtesy of Jpwbee

7. When shooting in Manual, go for Matric Metering, so you don’t have to balance between contrasting lighting conditions of deep shadows and bright sunlight.

8. If your memory card can store hundreds of RAW images (bring additional memory cards and camera batteries), it’s best to shoot in RAW. This file format will later help in Photoshop to salvage any extreme contrast or blown out highlights problem you might have suffered while shooting.

9. Avoid shooting through a glass window. So even before the journey begins, either slide the glass window if you can. If it’s locked, go over to the end of the train where there are open windows.

CC image courtesy of Ben

10. It’s best to be traveling in the carriage that is last from first. This way, you get to shoot forward and show the whole train in the frame, including the engine, rounding a curve. And yes, taking this shot while the train is on a bridge or elevation makes the shot even more breathtaking.

11. Keeping an eye on what’s ahead is important to avoid trees, telephone poles, buildings or tunnels from interrupting your view. Just remember to duck well in time to avoid getting hit on your face or eyes, and always have the camera slung around your neck to stop it from falling out of the train.

~Zahid H. Javali