Tips for Photographing Your Amtrak Adventure
On your next train ride, instead of putting your camera away, keep it by your side and document the unique aspects of your journey. Train travel offers a special kind of ambiance, no matter the final stop. Here are some recommendations for documenting your next train ride — just remember, getting there is half the fun!
While others rush to get on the train and wait in their seats, take your time observing departure rituals. Point your camera at the train itself, watch as others board, and keep an eye out for the station’s unique details. Note which direction the light is coming from, adjust your ISO accordingly, and increase your shutter speed for action shots. But don’t forget to hop back on the train in time for departure!
Once the train has pulled out of the station, focus your attention on the inner activites of the cars. Many read, some play cards, others chit chat — the ways passengers pass their time is varied and always photo-worthy, so take notice when your fellow travelers are doing something interesting. The details are what make a journey memorable. Whether you’re traveling on a commuter train or staying in a roomette on an overnight journey, don’t forget to snap shots of the accommodations inside the train. These shots will add context and interest to your collection of train photos. While others may not notice the chairs, tables, food, doors, or small details that surround them, make sure you do!
It can be easy to hide behind your camera and the relative anonymity it provides, so challenge yourself to meet your fellow travelers. Trains are full of people — young and old, commuters and vacationers — why not say hello? Your fellow train travelers are just as interesting as your surroundings. Introduce yourself, make conversation, and ask to take their portrait. Use a wide aperture and high shutter speed to capture a shallow depth of field in your portrait shots, and always consider the lighting as well (it’s constantly changing on a moving train!).
Trains often provide what other modes of transportation can’t: stunning views and the opportunity to capture them. Visit the Observation car and watch the landscapes slip by. Photograph the observation car in the early morning or late afternoon to capture both the interior and exterior scenes (or, manually adjust your camera’s aperture so that both views are well-lit). When shooting through the windows, get as close to the glass as possible, and shoot straight ahead to reduce glare. Use a wider aperture and faster shutter speed to avoid blurring your subject matter. If you step back from the window, you can play with their reflections as well.
Naturally, you’ll also want to photograph the journey itself. Look for ways to safelynag shots of the train tracks while waiting on the platform prior to departure, or head to the back of the train and see if you can photograph out of a rear-facing window. The last compartments on a train are also great for another type of classic train shot: the “around the bend” photo. As the train takes a turn, find a window and get ready to shoot. The conductor can help you learn which direction the train will be turning and find a spot on the corresponding side. For around-the-bend shots, you’ll want to be as far back as possible in order to capture more of the train in your photo. Increase your shutter speed to produce crisp images without the blur caused by the train or shaky hands.
Each train journey is unique, so your photos will be too! Keep your camera out and enjoy the ride.
About the Author: Passion Passport is a travel startup and a global community of travel creatives from around the world. For the latest in travel inspiration and information, visit them on Instagram at @passionpassport.