I have added a new gallery to my Americas website, Scene from the Train.
This follows a conversation I had last year with a friend where I was mentioning how much I enjoy long train rides, on Amtrak no less, and especially taking photographs along the way. He was surprised at the idea and even more that one might have some success. Hence this gallery, which I hope does succeed in showing some success.
Here’s some things I have learnt to keep in mind when taking photographs from a train:
- the windows accumulate dirt and you will likely be looking for a cleaner spot to photograph through
- a lens of a longer, telephoto focal length tends to work better than a wide-angle; that helps you see through a hole in the dirt
- you can’t use auto-focus, as it will likely choose the dirt on the window
- it’s simpler to switch the camera to manual mode and set the focus, probably close to infinity, and leave it there
- if both your camera and lens lack anti-shake capabilities, you will likely need to use a high ISO
- I think the windows are multiple layers of plastic; either way, you have to look out for how the light is hitting the window as it can create flare and other anomalies that are impossible to remove on the computer
- one of the great things about long-distance Amtrak is the viewing car with its windows that extend into the ceiling; and increase the opportunity, if you are not careful, for reflections and other undesirables in your photographs
- when the train is really moving, you will be looking ahead, and taking photographs behind; that is, you look for opportunities and turn to capture them
- capturing behind reduces the difference in relative speed between the scene and the train; the closer something is, or the more directly you look out, the more blurred that part of the scene will be; though sometimes that might be just what you want
- of course you can take photographs looking ahead, but it’s that much more difficult to see the composition, and respond before it is gone
- trains slow down, and even stop, and this increases the options for composition and where to point the camera, but unless it stops and you get off, you still have to watch out for the dirt and aberrations of the windows
- it’s easy to find a really good part of the window to continually work through, clean, no reflections or anything; and then suddenly see something amazing and turn to photograph it and completely forget about all the issues of the windows
- don’t worry, you’re right, what we are attempting here is impossible, most of the photographs will have one or more issues; but relax and enjoy the ride, and the ones that do work will be all the better for it
The photographs here didn’t make the gallery, but show well the challenges and possibilities of train travel.
The gallery Scene from the Train shows scenes seen from the Amtrak trains the California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder.