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How to take professional-looking pictures from a moving train

Avoid motion blur when capturing images from a moving train window
Avoid motion blur when capturing images from a moving train window

As you set out on your eagerly anticipated train holiday, perhaps one of the first items that you'll be reaching for once you board the carriage is your camera. Whether you've decided to explore Canada by train, or have invested in a Japan rail pass, you'll likely be surrounded by a beautiful medley of unrivalled scenery, local intrigues and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture a precious nanosecond of your life.

Taking photographs from a moving train needn't be all blurred trees and unwanted lens flare.

 

The trouble is, getting that perfect shot from a moving train is notoriously difficult. Not only could you be moving at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour (especially if you're travelling on Japan's iconic Shinkansen bullet train) you'll also have reflective glass to contend with, which could ruin the picture.

However, taking photographs from a moving train needn't be all blurred trees and unwanted lens flare - take a look at our simple guide to taking professional-looking pictures from a moving train.

Eliminate motion blur 

We've all attempted to take what we imagined would be an excellent photograph from a moving vehicle only for it to come back a blurred mess of pixels.

Travelling the world by train and taking pictures go hand-in-hand.
Travelling the world by train and
taking pictures go hand-in-hand.

 

That's because the photographer and/or the subject matter, are moving at different speeds to one another. If you were to take a shot out of the carriage window, for example, the fence and foreground objects such as trees and pylons would be blurred whereas the mountainscape in the background may be pin-sharp. Luckily, there's an easy fix.

Most modern cameras allow you to alter the shutter speed, in precisely the same way that you would capture a quickly moving object. It works in exactly the same manner. All you have to do is set the shutter speed to around 1/1000s, as this will counter the speed of which you're travelling.

It's a possibility that depth of field will be reduced, but if you're working your way through the broad plains of the USA by train, the large distances should ensure that this doesn't matter too much. Additionally, motion blur is much more common if shooting from a side window. Does your carriage have front glass? If so, try and get your dream shot from there.

Eradicate reflections

The glass is reflective, which poses a sizeable problem when shooting from a train carriage. Not only could you end up with a picture of yourself, as if you were photographing a mirror, but other reflections could add a level of unwanted colour to your snaps. 

By investing in a polarising filter, you'll minimise the chances of this happening, giving you clearer, sharper pictures.

With practice, you'll be taking beautiful train photographs in no time!

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