Photographer's Blog

The Pursuit of Transience: Train Essentials

Unlike a flight, slow travel in a train requires a different set of essentials, as well as equipment. Find out what Justin Mott takes along on his train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. 

Keep it light
For this trip, I brought along my Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens and EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens. When riding on a long train ride such as this, I like to pack light with my clothes and my gear, one body and one to two lenses at the most.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/2500sec, ISO500 
A train attendee flags the train at a stop along the trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

The EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens is so versatile, enabling you to pack light and be more mobile. Fantastic for portraits, landscapes and even detailed shots, it lets you get the shots you’ll need.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/2.8, 35mm, 1/160sec, ISO100 
A monk waits for his train to depart from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/320sec, ISO100
A young Thai navy serviceman poses for a portrait at the Hua Lamphong train station.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/800sec, ISO100 
An old rusted cargo car at the Hua Lamphong train station.

For sweeping landscapes shots, I used my EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens as it’s awesome for capturing super wide angles.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, f/4, 16mm, 1/250sec, ISO100 
A view of a Buddhist pagoda from the window of the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Packing essentials

I take about 4 batteries with me because not all trains in developing countries have power outlets so you have to be stocked. I always pack a power converter for my chargers, an extra battery pack for my phone. I ditch my lens caps in favour of protective filters that way when I need to shoot quickly I’m ready to go.

I love packing a lightweight scarf because it has so many uses. I use it to clean my camera as dust is everywhere on open air trains along with using it as a make-shift tripod. I even wrap my camera in it to hide and protect it. I travel with a regular backpack instead of a camera bag so I also take lens bags with me to protect them. For clothes I like to dress light so T-shirt and jeans usually does the job.

Rules of Etiquette

When it comes to approaching people, I tend to shoot from the hip when I want to capture natural moments. For portraits, I prefer to sit down with them first and chat before I ask to take their pictures.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/1.4, 35mm, 1/800sec, ISO100 
A passenger waits for his train while reading an article dedicated to the queen of Thailand on her birthday.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/4.5, 35mm, 1/200sec, ISO640 
A group of men play sepak takraw (foot volleyball) on the streets of Bangkok.

Remember to watch your gear at all times as trains are breeding grounds for petty thieves. I try to keep my gear hidden whenever I can and instead of using a normal camera bag, I typically use a simple canvas backpack so I don’t draw any attention to it. I also cover up logos with gaffer tape to conceal the make and model of my camera.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, f/4, 35mm, 1/1250sec, ISO100
A view of the train tracks along the route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

 

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.

justinmott.com

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Thank you Snapshot and Canon for featuring me and thank you everyone for reading these articles, I hope you enjoy them. For more tips visit http://www.justinmott.com and follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/askmott/.

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