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Railroads – Composition and Camera Features to Capture Impressive Moments

Equipped with fast continuous shooting speed, innovative AF functions, and high image quality, the EOS 5D Mark III is used by many Railroad photographers.! This article will cover some unique techniques that you can explore with your EOS 5D Mark III.(Reported by: Yuya Yamasaki)

EF600mm f/4L USM/ Manual exposure (1/320 sec., f/18)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight

I took a close-up shot of the front of the train to give impact to the image. Here, I included the trees in between the camera and the train to produce foreground blur. While this is a typical scene where focusing with AF may not produce accurate results, with the EOS 5D Mark III, it was a job well done.

Three Approaches to Capturing Impressive Railroads Photography

Composition: Capturing the shape

In breathtaking photos such as those illustrated here, the key lies in composing a balanced shot of the train's shape. For older DSLR models, such shots would be taken with the focus fixed on a particular point. However, on many occasions, important aspects were left out from the image composition. With the EOS 5D Mark III, I am now able to compose a shot easily, while tracking the train by making use of the continuous shooting speed of 6 fps with AI Servo AF. In photo 1, I captured the round face of the train approaching together with an indicator light at the bottom of the image.

Light: Using backlight effectively

When used appropriately, a backlight can help to produce images of trains that are as good as those used in advertisements. A backlight can be used to control the amount of light that is cast on the train to create variations of reflections or highlights. Also, a streamlined train is better for photo taking, such as those illustrated above and below. Such trains are better for photography because even under backlit conditions, there will be reflection from some part of the train's tip, which adds accent to the photo. Some other advantages of the EOS 5D Mark III includes rich gradation, which is good for capturing the glow of sunrise or sunset, and the high ISO speed for railroad and train photography at night.

Settings: Unrivaled AF system

With the EOS 5D Mark III, you can set to AI Servo AF, and apply 61-point automatic selection AF, AF point expansion, or Zone AF to create different impressions of the same scene. This is a revolutionary concept in the genre of railroad photography. In these examples, I displayed the grid lines inside the viewfinder, and assigned AF to the AF-ON button. Also, in the AF function customization menu, both the [AI Servo 1st image priority] and [AI Servo 2nd image priority] were set to [Focus priority].

EOS 5D Mark III Recommended Feature

AF Configuration Tool

I selected [Case 3] AI Servo AF charac- teristics. The “Tracking sensitivity” parameter was set to [+2] for better responsiveness, while “Accel./decel. tracking” was set to [0] since the train does not speed up or slow down suddenly. As for “AF pt auto switching,” I selected either [1] or [0] depending on the speed of the train.

Recommended Lens

EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

Dual-cross type AF points can be used when only the lens is attached to the camera. Even when the Extender EF 1.4x III is mounted, all the 61 AF points and the f/4 and f/5.6 cross-type AF points are usable.

EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ FL: 142mm/ Manual exposure (2.5 sec., f/5.6)/ ISO 3200/ WB: Daylight/ Multiple exposure: [Additive]

Cherry blossoms and other colourful flowers along this railway track are in full bloom. I have never encountered such a perfect scene in my entire life. I used the [Additive] multiple-exposure setting to feature the full moon hanging in the sky.

EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM + EXTENDER EF1.4×II/ FL: 280mm/ Manual exposure (1/30 sec., f/4)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight/ ND filter

A pan shot of a Shinkansen train that was travelling at full speed on the other side of the cherry blossoms. The pink portion of the image was achieved by blurring the cherry blossoms, making use of the large and beautiful foreground bokeh, one of the characteristics of a full-frame DSLR. I also employed a slightly overexposed setting to depict the tenderness and warmth of the spring season.

Yuya Yamasaki

Born in 1970 in Hiroshima, Yamasaki is the representative of "Railman Photo Office," a photo library that specializes in railway photos. He has been producing photographic works on railways from unconventional angles with his unique sensitivity.