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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click the images above to see the foreground. Blur is not always distracting.
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.
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.
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.
Below is all that is usable from the image, and it is not all that interesting.
Consider 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!
Below, I did shoot out an open window, but as you can see, no foreboding obstructions.
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.