It’s dusk and too dark for a conventional photograph without boosting the ISO to high levels.
So, I opt for a panned image, where I use a comparatively slow shutter speed and move the camera to follow the motion of the subject.
I’ve found that it helps to pick a point on the vehicle and stay with it.
It also helps to begin panning well before the shutter is released and continue to pan without changing your overall motion after the picture has been made.
This last part is crucial. Many pans are ruined when the photographer stops panning (or slows) at the very moment the shutter is released, which unfortunately can be a natural inclination that must be overcome with practice.
There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.
I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.
The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.
Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.
Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.
Railroad photography isn’t necessarily aided by a windswept empty car park, a host lighting poles, catenary masts, fences, not to mention the metal monstrosity posing as a footbridge.
This was the scene at Readville, Massachusetts on Sunday, Morning, December 6, 2015.
An MBTA train heading for Boston was due shortly. Since locomotives operate on the south-end of consists, I set up for a trailing pan photo. I focused on the new engine and allowed the setting to settle into a sea of blur.
This is one means of making the ugliness more interesting.
I exposed this image of a Thalys at speed crossing a arched bridge over Hollands Diep minutes before the fading orange ball of the sun melted into North Sea coastal fog.
Thalys is an international high-speed train branding applied to services connecting Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris, and Köln-Brussels-Paris. Technologically speaking the train is a French-built TGV, but specially painted and decorated for Thalys services.
This was an evening run from Amsterdam to Paris. Hollands Diep is the coastal estuary fed by Rhein and Meuse Rivers. This bridge features a pronounced sweep up and over the water. Beyond it is an older (and busier) truss that has two main tracks for ordinary rail services (freight and passenger).
I panned this train with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm fixed telephoto. The light was fading rapidly, so I set the ISO to 800, adjusted the white balance manually and pre-focused in anticipation of the fast moving train. My exposure was f4 at 1/250 of a second.
Earlier in the evening I’d seen a Thalys fly across the bridge and I recognized that the structure of the bridge mimicked the paint scheme on the train, so I released the shutter to allow for an arching visual flow between train and bridge. This is accentuated by the low light.