New York

AS SCENE FROM A TRAIN - FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOGRAPHS

Photographing an urban scene like this one as the train left Central Station in Montreal offers a different viewpoint of the city. Fujifilm X100S, 1/200 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Photographing an urban scene like this one as the train left Central Station in Montreal offers a different viewpoint of the city. Fujifilm X100S, 1/200 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Traveling by train can be a wonderful experience, sitting comfortably and watching as the world passes by just outside your window. I suppose if you commute daily by train you might not see it as some wonderful experience, however, whether the train you are on is traveling through a beautiful countryside or the forgotten parts of a city, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to take out your camera and make some amazing photographs.

We have all seen photographs out of airplane windows. Instagram anyone? Perhaps they are a bit cliche, although I actually don't mind them. Less often though do you see photos taken from a train and that's a shame. Maybe it is because more people fly, I don't know, but the opportunities to capture unique views from a train are endless. And many times it is not even possible to tell from the photograph that it was taken through a window while traveling upwards of 60 miles per hour.

Taking advantage of the stopped train while waiting to cross the border from Canada into the United States allowed me some extra time to compose this shot which would have been difficult with the train moving due to the strong back light. Fujifilm X100S,  1/950 @ f5.6, ISO 400.

Taking advantage of the stopped train while waiting to cross the border from Canada into the United States allowed me some extra time to compose this shot which would have been difficult with the train moving due to the strong back light. Fujifilm X100S,  1/950 @ f5.6, ISO 400.

So what do you photograph? Think about the difference between trains and cars, besides the fact that trains are on rails and cars are on the road, but what does that offer you visually. If you think about it, roads generally pass by the front of buildings and houses, whereas trains travel behind, which makes it possible to capture a unique perspective. If you are out west or up north, it can be about beautiful landscapes, but most trains travel through urban and industrial areas as well so you see the back side of the city or urban landscape. Take advantage of both and you will be surprised at what you capture.

Notice how the foreground is a blurred. I still think it adds some interest. Fujifilm X100S, 1/500 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Notice how the foreground is a blurred. I still think it adds some interest. Fujifilm X100S, 1/500 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Before you break out your camera on the next trip from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia or beyond, let me offer some tips to help you start making beautiful images from the comfort of you train seat. And you barely have to put down your drink to do it.

Five Tips to make better photographs during your next train journey:

1. Pick a good seat. It might seem obvious, but you really should choose a window seat, otherwise, you better get to know the person you are sitting with very well. Somewhat joking, but there a few ways to ensure you will get a window seat and a good one at that. Use the red cap or a similar service even when you don't need assistance with your luggage because they will get you on the train before everyone else and that is well worth a few dollars. Boarding early also gives you the option to pick a seat with the cleanest, least scratched window. Finally, not all window seats are created equal, so make sure you get one that is more or less centered on a window.

I selected the left side of the Amtrak Adirondack train from New York to Montreal because I knew the Hudson River would be out my window during most of the trip. The ice was a bonus. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

I selected the left side of the Amtrak Adirondack train from New York to Montreal because I knew the Hudson River would be out my window during most of the trip. The ice was a bonus. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

2.Select the side of the train that will afford you the best views. If it is not a route you are familiar with, then a little research will go a long way. Google maps do show train tracks. Another consideration when selecting which side to sit will be the direction of light. Shooting into the sun can create some interesting photos, but remember that you are shooting through a window so the sun glare and reflection may not allow for photographs. Compare it to sun glare on a dirty windshield, it is the same thing.

Downtown Albany, New York, as the sun goes down. I like the empty parking lot and elevated shooting position. A view that would be difficult if not for riding on the train. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

Downtown Albany, New York, as the sun goes down. I like the empty parking lot and elevated shooting position. A view that would be difficult if not for riding on the train. Fujifilm X100S, 1/1250 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

3. Pay attention to your aperture. Selecting a wide aperture, f 2.0 - f 5.6, will limit the effects of shooting through the window, similar to shooting through a fence. If you have the time and can do it safely, clean the window from the outside prior to boarding. Of course, you should check with train personnel before you do this just to be on the safe side. But at a minimum, wipe the inside of the window. You don't have to shoot wide open though because you do want some depth of field, but too much and you will be spending a lot of time cloning out spots caused by dirt on the window.

4. Shutter speed matters. Objects close to the train will blur even at relatively fast shutter speeds. If you are shooting objects in the distance without a foreground then you can get away with a slower shutter speed even on a fast-moving train. If a fast shutter speed is not possible or you are just looking to get more creative, then slow the shutter speed way down and blur the scene as you pass by. Instead of you panning with the camera, let the train do it for you. Think about this technique to photograph trees during the Fall.

Photographing the backside of the city. The slightly burred train structure at the right adds just enough context to let the viewer know that this photo is taken from a train. I like the industrial look and hints of color in this image. It can be hard to frame a shot while the train is traveling at 60 m.p.h. so take plenty of shots.  Fujifilm X100S, 1/160 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Photographing the backside of the city. The slightly burred train structure at the right adds just enough context to let the viewer know that this photo is taken from a train. I like the industrial look and hints of color in this image. It can be hard to frame a shot while the train is traveling at 60 m.p.h. so take plenty of shots.  Fujifilm X100S, 1/160 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

5. Always be prepared to shoot and when possible try to anticipate what's coming up. Even when you are very familiar with the route, the view outside will pass by quickly so you need to keep your camera ready and as close to the window, without touching it, as possible. This might be a good time to mention that a wide angle lens works best, especially in a changing landscape. Fast moving trains make framing and shooting with long glass difficult. If the train is moving slowly or you are traveling the great plains, then this may not be a problem.

Take the time to shoot lots of pictures on your next rail journey and let the results surprise you and your friends. Besides, there is much more to see from a train window than from a plane window.

Check out Amtrak train routes and start planning your adventure today.

FUJI X100S AND LANDSCAPES - PERFECT TOGETHER

Even when viewing the results on the back of the camera I knew that the Fuji X100S was capturing the landscape as I was seeing it. 1/1000 @ f8, ISO 400.

Even when viewing the results on the back of the camera I knew that the Fuji X100S was capturing the landscape as I was seeing it. 1/1000 @ f8, ISO 400.

Much has been written about the Fuji X100S and its capabilities as a street camera and the look and feel of this camera certainly can evoke thoughts of roaming the streets in search of light and subjects. And I've previously written on this blog  about getting back into street photography and how I too thought this was the perfect camera.

What is overlooked though is that the quality of the images produced by this camera make it ideal for just about any type of photography, and that includes landscapes as I recently found out after spending a week hiking in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks.

This camera excels in black and white mode. I have added a custom setting for black and white so that I can quickly transition when the mood strikes me. 1/550 @ f8, ISO 400.

This camera excels in black and white mode. I have added a custom setting for black and white so that I can quickly transition when the mood strikes me. 1/550 @ f8, ISO 400.

For this trip, I was prepared to take my DSLR, assorted lenses and tripod. But the more I thought about that, it became clear that this trip was more about getting away and while I enjoy taking photos outside of work, I didn't want to put the pressure on myself that sometimes comes when I bring all my gear. And after all, one of the reasons I decided to purchase the X100S after reviewing it for ten days was because the quality rivaled my DSLRs.

Rocky Falls is a two-mile hike from the Adirondack Loj. Hand holding the X100S was easy even with a slow shutter speed in order to add motion to the waterfalls. 1/25 @ f16, ISO 200.

Rocky Falls is a two-mile hike from the Adirondack Loj. Hand holding the X100S was easy even with a slow shutter speed in order to add motion to the waterfalls. 1/25 @ f16, ISO 200.

Because of the size and weight, I was able to carry this camera over my shoulder while hiking and by running the camera strap through a carabiner attached to my backpack harness, I did not have to worry about the camera hitting the ground if it happened to slip off. Another reason it stayed on my shoulder is that I replaced the manufacturers strap with a double-sided non-slip strap from Think Tank Photo.

Panoramic view of Heron Marsh located at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center. I'm sure this would be spectacular with early morning or late afternoon light, but the X100S did just fine at noon. 1/850 @ f8, ISO 400.

Panoramic view of Heron Marsh located at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center. I'm sure this would be spectacular with early morning or late afternoon light, but the X100S did just fine at noon. 1/850 @ f8, ISO 400.

This was also the first opportunity I had to really use the panoramic settings on the camera and was impressed with the results. The features are not much different than other cameras, but the setting is easy to get to quickly and understand. You decide camera orientation and direction of the pan, along with how many degrees you want to cover. Once set, you pick the starting point, press the shutter and the camera provides visual cues needed to maintain the correct speed as you complete the pan.

The early evening light highlights swimmers at the public beach on Lake Mirror located in Lake Placid, N.Y. 1/300 @ f8, ISO 200.

The early evening light highlights swimmers at the public beach on Lake Mirror located in Lake Placid, N.Y. 1/300 @ f8, ISO 200.

Something else that really impressed me was that almost all of these photographs were made between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., normally not the best time to photograph landscapes. So what did I do to make up for the lack of golden hour light? Well not much, but nature did help by providing cool crisp air, nice big clouds and plus I underexposed most shots by a third to one full stop. This helped deepen the colors, eliminate bright spots and add some contrast.

Lake Placid, N.Y.  1/1100 @ f8, ISO 200.

Lake Placid, N.Y.  1/1100 @ f8, ISO 200.

All of these photos did pass through Adobe Lightroom 4, however only minimum corrections were applied. The results straight out of this camera are so close to perfect, post production is a breeze.

So while I don't think the Fuji X100S will replace my DSLR camera for all my landscape photography, it was an attractive alternative knowing I had miles to hike and was looking to shed some pounds. I think the results speak for themselves.

Previous Fuji X series cameras posts:

TEN DAYS WITH THE FUJI X100S

TIME FOR AN UPGRADE? FUJI X10 or X100S

INTRODUCING MY FUJI X10

PHOTOS LEFT UNPUBLISHED

Colombian Tall Ship Gloria

Typically you cover an assignment, edit and caption photos, then when all is done, transmit your photos for publication. For me that typically means between three to five photos with the expectation that one to three will be published.
Sometimes these assignments are multiple day events so you have to think how your coverage will vary each day in order to keep things fresh. And then sometimes these assignments not only span multiple days, but they are assignments you have covered over multiple years.
This years Fleet Week in New York was just such an assignment, one that I've photographed probably 18 times, both in uniform and out, and for the last eight years for the Office of Naval Research.
On the first day as exhibitors are setting up and the participating ships begin to arrive I try to make a photo that sets the scene. Not only behind the scenes coverage for ONR, but also a standard Navy shot showing the parade of ships. Last year I was successful on both counts, so this year I spent lots of time and clicks covering the set up of our exhibit. This mostly consisted of Sailors moving boxes, forklifts unloading crates and like. It was dark and not very exciting, so I pulled out the flash and played with rear curtain sync, slow shutter speeds, etc., and did manage to get one frame that was marginal at best. It was published.

Last year while walking to Pier 86, home of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, to cover our exhibit set up, the USS New York passed by during the parade of ships. I took a few frames and later that evening, almost as an afterthought, decided to caption and transmit that photo. It was published.
So this year after documenting our exhibit set up I decided I would photograph the parade of ships, which this year included 17 tall ships from numerous countries. For the most part it was pretty standard photographs from the end of Pier 92 and at times felt more like shooting a lineup, then actually doing something creative.
As the ships started to tie up, I was once again on Pier 86 when the Colombian tall ship Gloria was pulling in, I was struck by the sailors aloft in multiple colored shirts. I instantly thought that this was a different picture, a picture that would represent Fleet Week in a different way.
So that night as I prepared my photos, it was with high expectations that the photo above would be published. It was different, well composed, spoke to the uniqueness of this year's Fleet Week.
I'll never know why that photo was never published and two others were, one mediocre shot from my experimentation and another of the USS Wasp, but that is what keeps me shooting.