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Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Discovering North Yorkshire through Photography and Video

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips. I thought this would be a good theme to address because I know people who are rail, bus and car enthusiasts. Of course, this is perhaps one for the boys but not necessarily so because there are just as many women who enjoy shooting transportation too! In North Yorkshire we have the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the National Rail Museum, steam and diesel special tours such as the Scarborough Spa Express and much more in the railway scene. Bus services are abundant in the region including Britain’s most scenic bus route to Whitby. As far as cars are concerned, there are vintage and classic cars galore especially with series such as Bangers and Cash, Heartbeat and various rallies around the region. We think that airplanes are out of reach for photographers but not always so, and in any case, there is the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington near York. So how can we capture such?

What Will I Need?

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Granted, you will most likely require a car, bus or train to get to your destination first just as much as you need a camera. These are the obvious things, but you may need to do some research. Using well known search engines and Facebook pages often give you information about special events for rail, bus and car enthusiasts, so bookmark these sites and check them regularly. One thing to really take note of however, is the trains/bus/cars route. The reason being is because you can now prepare where about you are going to take a photo of your vehicle. Look out for very scenic locations which perhaps have landmarks including structures of interest that you can use in the background, or even foreground. Photography, like any hobby, requires preparation. You may even want to capture your vehicle at sunrise or sunset for creative effect. Another point to consider is that if you are shooting an event, it will undoubtedly be busy and you may want to find somewhere that is less populated with spectators.

Classic Ford Anglia at Goathland
Classic Ford Anglia at Goathland

If your car/bus/train is moving at speed, then you will more than likely be using a fast shutter duration so as not to record motion blur. However, perhaps motion blur is something you want to use creatively, in which case you will need a tripod. If there is little in the way of light because of the time of day or because of those dull water heavy skies North Yorkshire occasionally produces, then you will possibly need a tripod.

Our Hypothetical Scenario

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Let’s just assume for a moment that there is a car rally made up of vintage and classic vehicles. First of all, you will examine the route of the rally and decide on a fantastic location where to capture the event. This may even involve venturing out there before the event to search for one. So how can we capture our vehicles?

How to Capture Your Vintage and Classic Cars

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Let’s assume that the weather is fantastic, sunny skies, lots of light to play with and for once there is no rain. However, unbelievable as this is, good light will help you in your quest for shooting vintage and classic cars with a fast shutter speed. The general rule for shutter speeds is based on the focal length of your lens. If you are using a 300mm lens, you would need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/300th of a second. However, if your vehicle is hurtling at warp speed then this may be way too slow to prevent motion blur. Most DSLR cameras have a super high shutter speed and the Canon camera we are using in our series is capable of 1/4000 sec. Can you imagine 1/4000 second? Me neither. However, if you were to use this amazing speed, your photo may be underexposed because of the lack of light allowed in to reach the sensor. However, perhaps 1/2000 sec works better. In any case, this is where a high ISO could possibly come in handy. I typically recommend a low ISO in everything because of the old noise/grain in photo problem. However, in high shutter speeds it can work to your advantage. Just be sure however, that your aperture is not automatically set by the camera to a shallow depth of field. This will reduce the focus area in your shot and risks presenting the shot out of focus. If your car is static, then you could simply use the Aperture Priority mode on your camera. If your vehicle is in motion, then you may want to use the fully manual mode and set the aperture value to a deep depth of field and the shutter speed at a high speed. Then you will also need to increase the the ISO to something high too. The trick here is, that you need to know how far the ISO on your camera can go before returning noise (or over pixelating). You also need to adjust the ISO to the amount of light you have in order to achieve the correct exposure, so take some test shots first. You could perhaps start with 800 and work your way up until its correct, just don’t go over the threshold were your images will be grainy and over pixelated.

Which Lens Should I Use?

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

If you have a collection of lenses that are wide angle or telephoto (long lens) then really the simple answer is any. Of course, if your vehicle is a distance away then your telephoto lens will be beneficial otherwise you can simply use a wide angle lens if your vehicle is close by. If you are using a long lens handheld however, you may benefit from a tripod, but with a fast shutter you may not have too much of a problem with camera shake. If you are using a bridge camera you won’t have to worry too much about which lens to use, but just be sure that your shutter speed is fast to coincide with your zoom so that it is enough to capture your vehicle without any motion blur.

Framing part of the vehicle (abstract) can also be effective.
Framing part of the vehicle (abstract) can also be effective.

On the other hand, if you want to capture your vehicle and include the sweeping landscapes of North Yorkshire behind it, then a wide angled lens is recommended. If you want to fill the frame with your vehicle then perhaps a long lens will work best under the circumstances.

Reflective Surfaces

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

Remember that vehicles often have reflective surfaces and sometimes this can cause problems with exposure. If problems do occur, you may want to adjust your exposure compensation. You may also try HDR to get a photo with a lot of dynamic range.

Another issue with reflections is that you can be inadvertently be taking a photo of yourself too! Things like wing mirrors, shiny paintwork and of course glass can reflect practically everything including items around about that aren’t very eye pleasing, and even can reflect heavy sunlight, so be careful!

Shiny surfaces can create distractions which will compromise your photo, so this really can be a serious issue. It works in the same way as a portraiture and landscape, if you have too many distracting elements it can spoil your image.

Composition and Focusing

Trains Buses and Cars Photography Tips

What is just as important is composition. With vehicles such as cars, buses and trains, it is all too easy to capture them at eye level. In fact, if you get low down looking upwards towards the vehicle, it can create a far more interesting and appealing photograph. Granted, you may not be able to get up again, but at least you’ll have your shot. On the flips side, you may even want to try taking a photo from a high vantage point such as a hill side.

You may want to fill your frame with the entire vehicle as you would with a still object including a portrait. However, there’ll also be times when you want to include the environment around it. Here you will have to be careful that you do not allow the scenery and environment to drown your subject and distract away from it. Incorporate the scenery but do so without it being the most prominent part of the image. Keep the subject large! You can even go abstract, that is to pick out a recognisable part of the car and fill the frame with this. Logos, wheels and bodywork can make some appealing photos believe it or not.

Sadly at our hypothetical vehicle rally, we have one shot at this (if you pardon the pun) so you cannot go back and try again because your vehicles have driven off into the distance.

Another point of note, with anything in motion, you may have to move your camera with it as you are taking the shot. This is known as panning with the vehicle movements and you may also want to consider using a high continuous shooting mode. This will take a series of photos until you release your finger from the shutter button. In this case, you will also need to ensure that your focus settings are set to AI servo or Auto Servo depending on your cameras manufacturer. This will keep a constant focus lock on your subject. If your vehicle is static, then One Shot or Single Servo will suffice. As every vehicle is different, it is difficult to say where to aim your focus, but perhaps around the headlamps on a car (depending on where they are situated) or perhaps the front lights or windows of a modern train. In portraiture, eyes are often the best place to focus, so look for a feature on the front of the vehicle where you can aim your focus and will look great when sharp! Be creative!

Moving subjects, especially very fast vehicles, are not the easiest subject to focus on and capture. Still, in time and with much experience, you will be shooting vehicles meticulously!

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