Photographer's Blog

The Pursuit of Transience: Shooting Styles

Many will tell you that train travel is a great way to see a country, but they don’t usually mention it’s also a photography goldmine. The obvious rolling landscapes and portraits of strangers aside, there is plenty one can capture – even more if you’re going to be onboard for a while.

Dramatic Colours

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/800sec, ISO100
A man looks out of a colorful passenger car train at Bangkok Hua Lamphong Station before his departure.

Travel is exciting and filled with boundless energy, and one of the best ways to conceptually reflect that in your images is through the use of colour. We are surrounded by colour, which is why it’s easy to take for granted, but by paying attention to your surroundings, it could transform a mediocre photo into a powerful one.

We are surrounded by colour, which is why it’s easy to take for granted, but by paying attention to your surroundings, it could transform a mediocre photo into a powerful one.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/4, 35mm, 1/2000sec, ISO100

Deep, saturated colours tend to have more impact, and the key to using dramatic colours is to keep your composition simple. Stick to a few blocks of colour if you want a bigger impact, as having multiple colours in your image can detract from that.

If colour is the main focus of your image, then be sure to pay attention to the lighting. Light has colour– a candle or setting sun casts warmer tones while the light in the shadows of a sunny day tends to result in bluer hues. Play around with the white balance setting of your camera and remember, even using the “wrong” white balance could result in a powerful photo!

Black & White

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/5.6, 35mm, 1/50sec, ISO100
A passenger car filled with travelers en route from the scenic journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

What better way to capture the romance of travel than through black and white photography? Lending images a sense of timelessness, black and white photography is a great way to draw your viewer’s attention without the distraction of colour. With black and white photography, you are also able to play with mood, given the genre’s extreme versatility.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/4, 35mm, 1/1250sec, ISO100
A man catches some fresh air in between passenger cars on the train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

If your goal is monochrome, then be sure to shoot in both RAW and JPEG – this allows you more control during post-production. With more image information, you will be able to fix too-bright highlights and recover details hidden in shadows, which is crucial for a good balance of tones in this genre of photography. You should also shoot with the lowest ISO possible, as noise is particularly obvious with black and white images. If you like grain, add it later.

Speed

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, f/18, 16mm, 1/20sec, ISO100

Travel is the epitome of transience. Think boats, planes, trains, cars and people constantly on the move, barely pausing whilst in search of the next great big adventure. This particular characteristic of travel can be portrayed in your images simply by changing up your shutter speed, which can result in some cool, dramatic shots.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, f/4, 16mm, 1/200sec, ISO100

Manipulating your shutter speed (shoot on Shutter priority) allows you to freeze action or blur motion – decide on whichever works better for your image and set your camera accordingly. A slow shutter speed will allow you to create images like light trails, or panning along with a subject to emphasis motion. A faster shutter speeds conveys a message of time being frozen – which can be beautiful if given the monochromatic treatment.

Candid Photography 

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/5,6 35mm, ISO100
A young girl excitingly points out to her mother a flock of birds flying over a lush rice field.

Whenever you travel, you pass an uncountable number of strangers, all of whom with their own story tell. You will never be able to hear them all in a lifetime, but you can shoot them candidly, and leave that part up to your own imagination. Employing candid photography when you travel is a great way to get some completely organic portrait shots, and it also gives you a reason to strike up a conversation.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/800sec, ISO400
A woman looks out the window of a passenger car of an outward bound Bangkok train. 

The best candid photographs are always unplanned, which is why you should always have your camera within easy reach for when you do spot something. Pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of what is happening, this allows you to train your eye to capture the moment. Setting your camera to continuous shooting or burst mode increases your chances of getting that perfect shot, but ensure you have spare memory cards on hand!

When shooting candid photography, do bear in mind that you should ask for the subject’s permission if you intend to publish the image.

The best candid photographs are always unplanned, which is why you should always have your camera within easy reach for when you do spot something.

 

Watch the entire video here:

 

EOS-1D X Mark II (Body)

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EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM

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EF35mm f/1.4L II USM

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Justin Mott

Justin is an award-winning documentary, editorial and commercial photographer born in Rhode Island USA and based for over eight years in Southeast Asia. His work has been featured in publications as diverse as The New York Times, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, Bon Appetit, Forbes and numerous other international publications.

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