Landscape Photos From a Moving Bus and Train with a Nikon P510 – It Can Be Done

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First off, the UK is a beautiful place, the various landscapes worthy of being a famous painting. Idyllic and picturesque in natural simplicity.

So how does one capture a good composition from a moving vehicle? Pretty much just luck.

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Bright, deep even skies work nicely, especially with puffy clouds partially blocking the sun.

Ideally, one would stop the vehicle and take a moment to bathe in the peaceful surroundings, set up a tripod and frame the perfect picture. Traveling 60+ miles per hour by bus gives no such opportunity, but it does not have to stop you from getting a decent photo. While they may not be images you would want to enlarge to great size, it is pretty amazing to get such clarity from such a small consumer camera as the Nikon P510.

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Small window glare or aberration on right side?

Photographing while on the move does have some limits and considerations.

First, one must have a very fast shutter speed to stop the image flying by at 60 mph. This is easily done just by changing your consumer camera to Sports Mode. It will freeze frame the image.

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Using a big DSLR? It may have Sports Mode as well, or just set Shutter or Aperture Priority Mode, like I do on the D750. Things move too quickly to adjust all the settings. Let the camera do some of the work. The P510 also has these options.

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Sun glare adds a little interest, but can wash out the photo too.

Framing and composition during a bumpy bus ride can become quite aggravating, especially if you are zooming in on a subject. The target is passing by at a high rate of speed and you easily can miss a great shot by a split second.

Continuous Shooting Mode of the camera comes in very handy. The camera can shoot several pictures per second, and will snap off 3 or more shots at a time. This helps because one image of the three will likely have a power pole or some other obstruction marring the scene. At least one of the three will be a decent shot.

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This photo was from a still bus.

You can see in some of the gallery images, the foreground is a bit blurred. When focusing to infinity, that which is near may blur from the movement, yet what lays beyond is tack-sharp. I don’t mind this blur on these, but you can always crop it out. The camera does not always get the foreground crisp, like below.

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Click the images above to see the foreground. Blur is not always distracting.

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Take advantage of the stabilization features built into your camera or lens – especially if zooming in. This allows you to reduce the effect of the vehicle shake of a moving bus or train.

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Another problem is window glare. While there is nothing to prevent it, you can always wait until it disappears from your view. It all depends on how the sun hits. I found I had to wait, sometimes until the driver made a turn for the opportunity of a glare free window.

Try and get as close to the window as possible, but try not to rest the lens against the window glass. The bus itself vibrates and the lens bouncing off the window will blur your scene.

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One advantage to bus windows is they are often tinted. This acts like a polarizing lens, tempering the bright sun and adding vibrancy to your photos. But don’t use a polarizing lens on the camera. You will get colorful rainbow artifacts.

If you have bright sun and it appears to wash out your image, consider using exposure compensation. I use this feature often. It might add a little drama by darkening or additional color pop to the photos.

So where do you sit? It all depends on where the bus is going. In a city with narrow streets, it will be difficult to get a usable image from sitting on the side of the bus because buildings will pass in the blink of an eye. The front or rear seat can solve this, but often they present their own issues, like the driver, mirror or window glare.

Front-window

Below is all that is usable from the image, and it is not all that interesting.

Front-Window-2Consider the direction the bus is headed and the time of the day before choosing your seat. You want to avoid taking photos directly into the sun. Plus on my trip, the right side of the bus faced oncoming traffic, meaning I always had to zoom out. We had assigned seats.

The two images below were taken from a moving train in the rain. You never know where the interesting scenery is going to appear, but on a train, you might have access to both sides. You can also open the windows, but don’t stick anything out there. We were told of a passenger that lost his head on that train!

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The water does have blown out highlights. It was unavoidable in how fast the train was moving.

Below, I did shoot out an open window, but as you can see, no foreboding obstructions.

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Because the scene may have distant mountains, bright green pastures, or even reflective bodies of water, you are going to run into very high contrast lighting conditions, scenes with deep shadows and bright sunlight. To compensate, shoot with the matrix metering exposure setting so that the camera evaluates the whole scene. It will average out the exposure for good results. You might want to set a focus point though. Otherwise, the camera has no clue what you want in focus.

I hope I gave you some helpful tips to use on your next trip. I was surprised on my trip how few travelers were taking photos on the bus. They kept complaining of blurry images, window glare and trees in the middle of their photos. These tips help you avoid all three. Not the perfect photo, but no so bad either.

Next post… A UK location during the golden hour.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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32 Responses to Landscape Photos From a Moving Bus and Train with a Nikon P510 – It Can Be Done

  1. David says:

    Really nice shots Donna and some very useful tips. Don’t think I would have ever thought of using sports mode.

    • Thank you, David. Sports Mode works great, but you can only set a range for ISO on the P510. If you want full Manual control on P510 you must be in Manual to make those adjustments. The problem with that is on a moving bus, it is too difficult when encountering different light conditions to make those changes on such a small camera that quickly. On the D7100 I am pretty sure you have full control of ISO in Scene Modes.

  2. Alesia says:

    I love sports mode!

  3. Excellent photos while moving! I need to remember to use the continuous shooting mode. Thanks for the great tips!

    • Continuous will afford at least one photo to catch the “action.” But the fast shutter speed will insure you get the stop action necessary. Much depends on how fast the bus is moving, but we did a lot of highway driving.

  4. aussiebirder says:

    Beautiful shots Donna, they do bring back memories, and thanks for the photo tips they are very helpful:-)

  5. Thank you for all the tips you provided us. I never thought to use Sports mode while riding in a vehicle. I’ll have to try that. I’ve been using a fast shutter speed and that’s been pretty good. Last year we took a bus tour of Ireland and I had all of the above problems while trying to photograph on the moving bus. Maybe now I can avoid some of those problems like the glare.

    • Glare really is a biggie. One trip, I could not take any photos as glare was persistent. I waited and waited. Actually in Photoshop, I can eliminate glare, but it is not work I want to do just for a blog post. I suppose if I had the big camera and a large file with a great subject, I would tackle some small glare retouches.

  6. Victor Ho says:

    Sometimes there is not choice. You are on a bus or a train and it just goes. Or when with my spouse, there were only so many times I could stop a car. Every fifty feet was way too often. Walking or biking, the best slow way to go but then you never get to where you want to go. You always have the feeling you are missing something. It makes me shoot from airplane windows too. Great great shots.

    • When we were on that train, I was very disappointed. First, it was raining and the windows were filled with raindrops. No photos through them. Then the train did not have much scenery to see. We were in tunnels of rock most of the time. I got a book they were selling to support this steam train, and noticed we did not get the scenic ride. Tickets were part of our trip, so no getting a better itinerary.

  7. Thank you for the tips and suggestions, I’ll try to use them to improve my photography.

  8. lucindalines says:

    Wow loved the pictures! Great post, thanks for taking us along.

  9. I have always wondered if the pros (you) figured out a way to get good shots through moving tour bus windows…
    This is such a info-packed post, much of which is ‘greek’ to me, but I appreciate the fact that even little ole me with a laughably outdated digital camera can glean tips from this.
    Looks like you had/are having a great time!

  10. Søren says:

    Lovely views.

    Personally I think the main tip to getting a great shot under less-than-ideal circumstances is simply to take enough photos – and then delete 90% of them!

    I hope you had a wonderful trip.

    • I would bet those on our bus deleted more than 90%. I deleted maybe 15% due to signs or trees that were in the middle of the image. Some really nice vistas were trashed due to a “passing” tree. The trick is to not look in the direction you are shooting, but look ahead to what will be in the frame. It is all timing. Once you recognize a good scene coming, by the time you click, it is right in the frame.

      • Søren says:

        My most successful photographs taken on public transport has been taken when travelling on routes that I’ve taken over and over again; I knew what scenery would be coming up, when there’d be a good framing of views and so on. Some views I’ve photographed dozens of times on different journeys, simply because they continued to fascinate me – the tell-tale sign of a great view!

  11. debibradford says:

    Fun! I shot Scotland a LOT through the window of our coach, and while standing upon decks of ferries rolling and tumbling through the seas to islands. My camera was a Canon 40D and it was up to the task, Some of my favorite hands-down photos I shot through the window, from the ferry. Love your images!

    • Some of my favorite landscape photos are from a boat. Water makes a nice foreground and really sets off the shot. I really don’t prefer bus photos, but all that scenery would go to waste. There were people on our bus complaining and wanting to get to where we were going. That were not appreciating all that beauty around us. With hours on a bus, why not make the most of it.

  12. swo8 says:

    That’s amazing from the window of a bus. What lovely countryside!
    Leslie

    • I really did love the landscapes. They are so varied and different from here in the US. Being a skier, I have to say we do have some varied landscapes here too. I just loved the mountains of Utah, Colorado,Vermont, and Maine. New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Montana are favorites too.

  13. Thanks for these very helpful tips and explanations using your own (UK) examples which made it easy to imagine and to understand. I was quite surprised about the very good results and the quality of your pictures! I sometimes tried to take a photo out of the train and I think one photo out of 10 or 15 “survived” – in case of very favourable circumstances like no direct sun, clear windows, low speed and a good seat. ^^
    I now will try more often, using your hints, Donna!

    • Clear windows help quite a bit, but having the lens close to the glass eliminates seeing the dirty Windows. I did get some decent images, too many to show on the blog. The file size is small so the camera could buffer quickly. I did not even try it on Fine, but I bet it would have worked.

  14. Steve says:

    Great photos and I can see you are having a great trip. Hope the weather is not too bad!

    • Thank you, Steve. I am home now and did have a great time. It was not long enough in some places. I really enjoyed Yorkshire and Penrith and we were not at either long enough. We were in York longer than I thought we needed to be. I suppose the big cities are not my cup of tea, even though there is so much to see and do. I really loved the coastal areas too.

  15. Sartenada says:

    Congratulations! You managed excellent to shoot photos from moving train and bus. I have once made a post in which I photographed winter landscapes from the train, which passed at the speed of 160 km/h.

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