Railroad Photography: Breaking the Rules: Aiming into the Sun!

 

Someone once said, ‘never photograph by aiming directly into the midday sun’. And, this advice has been melded into the cardinal rules of good railway photography.

The other day, while photographing along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, I opted to violate this basic premise of good photography.

Three considerations;

  1.  Over the years (35 of them) I’ve exposed a great many images of the Mass-Central on its former B&A branch. (A fair few of these images, I feel are indeed quite good, and perhaps border the category of ‘above average’.) So, if I end up making a bad photo (or two), who cares?
  2. My 12mm Zeiss Touit lens is an unusual piece of equipment. Owing to the nature of its design and exceptional high quality glass, I can make photos that frankly wouldn’t work so well with more conventional equipment.
  3. By selecting a very small aperture (f22), I can create a sunburst effect in a clear polarized sky while continuing to retain shadow detail.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera's histogram, I've optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I've attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera’s histogram, I’ve optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I’ve attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I've taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I’ve taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. This is a camera produced Jpg, unaltered except for scaling necessary for internet presentation.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I've also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I’ve also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas. In this instance, I have not applied any external filters.

So, are these photos good? Will I be fined by the aesthetics police? That’s up to you to decide!

But, honestly, what else would you have me do with a northward train coming directly out of the midday sun? I could have made no photos, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting post, now would it?

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3 thoughts on “Railroad Photography: Breaking the Rules: Aiming into the Sun!”

  1. Can you take a similar photo with a more conventional wide-angle lens to demonstrate why, for extreme conditions like this, the Zeiss Touit matters?

    Photo rules help the inexperienced get to the point where rule-breaking won’t result in a clunker. On the other hand, Railroad rules are something else – they help railroaders stay alive and/or help the RR companies stay solvent.

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