Railway Night Photography: Autumn Style—Tips and Suggestions

A nearly full moon and foliage with rusty yellow hues can accentuate railway night photography.

The moon will lend a bluish tint to the sky, while illuminating clouds that makes for a more dramatic scene than inky black.

Streetlights, passing automobiles, and locomotive headlights help to brighten the foliage.

Rain makes for puddles that can add atmosphere and interesting reflections. Get low to the ground and use puddles as mirrors.

New England Central switches at Palmer, Massachusetts as a nearly full moon illuminates the late Autumn sky. Exposed in October 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera with a 27mm pancake lens.
New England Central switches at Palmer, Massachusetts as a nearly full moon illuminates the late Autumn sky. Exposed in October 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera with a 27mm pancake lens. Contrast controlled in post processing using Lightroom.
Making a puddle work: earlier in the day it rained, but by evening the sky had cleared. By keeping the camera low to the water, I was able to capture some interesting reflections. It is import to keep the camera dry, so don't go overboard.
Making a puddle work: earlier in the day it rained, but by evening the sky had cleared. By keeping the camera low to the water, I was able to capture some interesting reflections. It is import to keep the camera dry, so don’t go overboard.

If a train pauses, use a tripod to make very long exposures. A common error with night photography is failing to leave the shutter open long enough to capture sky detail.

Use post processing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop to control contrast, and always expose RAW files to ensure sufficient data is captured.

If time allows, bracket and study exposures on site to see if you’ve caught what you were seeing. Or perhaps find something in the photograph that looks completely different than the scene itself.

Motion can improve or destroy a night photo. CSX Q012 blasts through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts as New England Central pauses below the South Main Street Bridge. The moon helps illuminate the night sky. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Motion can improve or destroy a night photo. CSX Q012 blasts through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts as New England Central pauses below the South Main Street Bridge. The moon helps illuminate the night sky. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
A long pan with a steady hand. This was exposed for more than a second using a Lumix LX7.
A long pan with a steady hand. This was exposed for more than a second using a Lumix LX7.

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