View Full Version : Heres one for you - Shooting Trains

10-28-2007, 08:45 AM
Specifically Steam trains most likely. The methodology behind this is as follows: My parents own a shop specialising in model railways (Strange I know, but it's working). Hence, customers = train lovers. Hence, pictures of trains should, in theory, sell nicely. So sometime soon I plan to get some pictures of trains (Specifically steam because they're much more interesting). But...and it's a big but...I'm looking for suggestions on how to shoot them.

Obviously I could go for the traditional shot from a long way off of the train steaming it's way down the line through the middle of some beautiful open fields...and I probably will get some like that. However I'm looking for some more unconventional shots - I don't just want to copy other photographers styles, I want to start to delve into a more personal one. I know asking for suggestions from other may seem a funny way to do so, but you have to get ideas from somewhere. Then you can develop them into your own.

So yea, ideas. Compositional, technical, I don't mind. Its just going to be a different type of photography all together, and any input is appreciated. :)

So far what I've figured - for moving train shots, I'm going to be looking at a shutter speed as high as I can crank it to freeze them. Some parts on these huge beasts move at a terrific rate, so yea, problem 1. Hence, a wide aperture will be needed, meaning lack of depth of field (Although that's less of a problem considering I'm shooting with an FZ50, so it has a good Depth of Field even at 2.8). Problem 2. Then you've got squabbling for a position - there are usually literally HUNDREDS of photographers fighting for space along the tracks when the steamers run, because they're so graceful and photogenic. As I'm somewhat younger than most of you, I can't drive yet, so reconnaissance for a position could be problematic as well. Setback number 3.

Advice on these, and any other issues, much appreciated. :)

10-28-2007, 05:28 PM
Nice idea. I suppose pictures of trains, especially large sizes, will sell nicely. Provided that the customers coming to your parent's store do not like to photograph trains themselves..

I haven't done any photography of this kind, so I don't know if the following ideas will work, but perhaps you may be able to use them.

- Get a wide angle converter, and take a picture of the front of a train from the side of the tracks while kneeling. This will cause some perspective distortion of the subject which can make this a very dramatic picture.
- Does the FZ-50 have a raw mode? If so, use it. You may be able to enhance detail in for instance the steam.
- If there is a steep hill on the track, you could stand on top and take a picture of the approaching train; in such a way that the first cars are in the shot, but the rest disappears behind the horizon.
- When the train is riding away, take a shot with the camera zoomed in a lot and stopped down considerably. Zooming in will flatten the perspective, which can help in this case. What you would get is a picture where you see the long line of steam and the steam pipe in the shot with the top of the cars in front of it. For this, it's best to be standing on a bridge over the railroad with a good view on a straight track.
- Find a good spot along the railroad. Beautiful landscape, good view of the train, some vegetation which may be included in front of the train, to give the picture depth.
- Pick a good day. If the sky is completely overcast, your pictures will not look that pretty. Blue sky may work, but it lacks drama. To get a really great picture, you will want to have sky that's partially overcast with great contrast between blue and white. Using post processing you can make this sky even more dramatic. A sky that looks like a storm is on its way is great too. You could also try to shoot the pictures in the hours before sunset. That way you will get nice warm colours in the picture.
- You could try to intentionally pick a slow shutterspeed and pan pictures of the train driving by. You will need a considerable distance from the train in this case

Here in the Netherlands there are almost always cycling paths close to the railroad, I don't know if that is also the case where you live. If so, you could use a bike to reach a nice location for shooting the trains, a bit more remote than where the hundreds of trainspotters you talk about are shooting. The different location may also make the picture more original.

Hope this helps.

10-29-2007, 02:43 AM
Thanks very much for the input - yep, the 50 shoots RAW mode pretty much constantly with me. I just wish you could turn off the damn annoying feature that saves a JPEG at the same time. Slows the write speed down something chronic.

Some nice ideas there, thanks - at this time of year it could be problematic getting a nice sky over here in England, since we hardly get clearish days even in the summer. :p But here's to hoping. And I'm sure I could get a dramatic shot of a train in the rain I suppose... :rolleyes:

So, yea, thanks again for all the help. I'll let you know how it goes when I get the chance to get some shootin' done. :)

10-29-2007, 12:59 PM
here is a good site with a lot of railfan pictures:


10-29-2007, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the link. :)

11-02-2007, 08:15 AM
Down and dirty shot of a passenger train as it passed underneath me.

11-04-2007, 05:02 PM
im not sure if you can, but try to sneak in when they stop and get some random macro shots of the mechanical side of the trains. I would love macros of trains. but thats just me.

11-05-2007, 12:01 AM
Who needs to sneak? This is Somerset, everyone's so friendly round here they'd let you get yourself mangled in the drive gear if it kept you happy. :p Thanks for the idea. I'll look into it.

11-12-2007, 04:17 PM
Kinda funny, i bought my FZ50 to shoot trains. I'm still new to FZ50 though and experimenting alot. It will be like heaven if my parents owned a model shop.