ADP Photography | Tip07: Doing it on public transport, and the benefits of using rubber!

Tip07: Doing it on public transport, and the benefits of using rubber!

April 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If the title made you think of something else, get your mind out of the gutter!  Behave...this is a family blog!

As I have mentioned over and over again (and over), I get a little frustrated about being in good places, but unable to take photographs...especially when the light and weather conditions are perfect.  We know that public transport won't stop for us, so, what can we do?

Çapraz Creek from a bus window.  I got lucky as the bus was in traffic so only moving 10-20 mph

f/8, 1/500, 15mm, ISO1000 (Rubber lens hood fitted)

Well, not a lot. We can:

  1. ignore it...not really an option, but it does lead to less frustration!
  2. make a note of the location, using GPS on your phone if necessary, so you can return one day (and pray that light and weather play ball!)
  3. try and take some kind of shot from the vehicle

The third option leads to many technical challenges, not least trying to get other passengers out of the way.  But assuming the shot is on your side of the vehicle and you are tucked up against the window...we still have a fight on our hands...

A good tip, if you plan to shoot from the window during a journey, is to check the route beforehand and get yourself up against the most profitable window!

Dirty windows...not a lot you can do about them, unless at the next stop you get out with a mop and bucket...believe me I have been tempted, but never done it - yet.  In this part of the world, intercity buses and the fast trains do not have windows that open.  pffft!

Focusing - your auto focus may try and hunt as the window confuses things, as will objects that flash by.  You can try and set manually on infinity, perhaps this at least gives you a known parameter to work with.   

A larger depth of field is also desirable of course to try and get as much of the scene as sharp as possible...that means at least f/8 is advantageous.  But then of course we have...

Shutter speed.  If you're on moving transport, you need a shutter speed fast enough to counteract the vehicle...that could mean opening the aperture...but, see the point above.  Fortunately, most modern cameras, especially the DSLRs, perform well at higher ISOs.

ISO.  The truth is, shooting from transport will always lead to a lot of missed shots, often with telegraph poles, or something similar, close to the lens being blurred, or to the landscape being too soft to use, (thanks to the dirty window between you and the scene), a higher ISO (800-1000 for example), is not going to be your biggest problem and will give you more chance of getting a fast enough shutter speed.  Naturally, better results will come when there is more light outside, low light and night will be nigh on impossible to get a shot that is anywhere sharp enough to look at (let alone keep).

Reflections.  How do you combat the reflections from the window?  Well this where rubbers come in.  Rubber lens hoods that is.  I bought one to try out, I cannot remember the brand but if you look on Google images you can get an idea of the type of thing.  They do allow you to press your camera right up to the window so as to block out all internal light, so stopping unwanted reflections. 

Honestly, though, I had varying degrees of success with mine. 

Rubber lens hoods are normally built in such a way that you can vary the length of the hood.  At a 90 degree angle to the window it works fine, but adjust your angle slightly and the rubber will pop back into it's next length position, and so you'll get reflections again while you try to adjust.  It also means that you pretty much have to work at the same angle all time, which isn't really possible.   All in all, it worked to banish reflections, but was cumbersome.  I expect the more expensive options may not be prone to such a problem, and may allow you to vary your angle to the window more reliably. 

An alternative for shooting from a hotel room window would be to place your camera on a tripod or flat surface, use the timer and a black jumper/coat to block the internal light while the shot is taken.  Unfortunately, this isn't really possible from the seat of a bus or train, unless you have extra hands! 

If you have a coat with loose sleeves, I guess you could push your lens up the sleeve and out of the shoulder end, then pad the rest of the coat around the camera.  It would block out a lot of the internal light causing reflections, and no doubt everyone else on the bus/train will think you're a bit odd...but hey, who cares! I may give this a go next time!

People.  Perhaps the last problem, if shooting from a seat on a bus or train, are the people in the seats around you.  If they're trying to sleep they will tut, moan, and even get aggressive with the constant clicking of your shutter.  Some trains have vestibule areas with windows that may even open...but DON'T put your head or your camera out of a moving window...that would be incredibly dangerous!

The foothills of Uludağ, near Bursa.  Through a bus window while travelling around 50mph

f/10, 1/3200, 24mm, ISO800 (Rubber lens hood fitted)

Ultimately, shooting from a moving vehicle is not a good way to get state the obvious!  You'll face a lot of challenges and if you have to shoot through a glassed window, the shots will rarely be usable.  But, if you've got no other way to get the shot, at least it is a momento and also a clear reminder of a place to go back day!

Have you managed to get some good shots while on transport?  What were your techniques?  Please share your thoughts and links to images!

All the best

The Frustrated Photog.



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