Basic railroad photography: One camera, one lens

Railroad photography

red blades on black
Previous Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) rotary at Roseville, Calif. David Lustig

It can be scary from time to time, waiting around to photograph a train with your digicam and the 18-55 mm kit lens, standing future to a fellow admirer sporting a monstrous telephoto zoom that in some circumstances charges additional than the auto that received you here. That particular person is likely to get a shot you could not even picture with your gear.

Effectively, it’s possible. Having said that, the gear does not make the photographer. Indeed, in the correct fingers, an very extensive or ultra-huge lenses can definitely deliver a exceptional perspective, but not necessarily a improved one.

two BNSF orange trains
Superior in the Tehachapi Mountains, two BNSF freight trains go just about every other close to the loop. David Lustig

To prove that position, just appear at some of the illustrations or photos from some of the wonderful rail photographers who slash their enamel working with Pace Graphics, Rolleis, Voightlanders, and Plaubels of the previous. Hastings, Wood, Steinheimer, and numerous many others had created their reputations by comprehension their devices, envisioning the scene, and having the shot.

Even though any one of these shooters would have been thrilled to have a tremendous telephoto or huge-angle zoom lenses, for the most portion they did not. Their sources had been usually restricted to “normal” lenses or probably modest extensive angle or small telephotos. Wanting at all those photographs now, nobody is complaining. Most of us are in awe of their means to get the most out of what they had at the time.

man standing in front of train
Canadian Pacific locomotive No. 2539 on educate No. 518 made a prevent at Dorval, Quebec. Philip R. Hastings

Today’s electronic cameras are frequently marketed as a “kit” including both overall body and a medium-vast-to-small-telephoto zoom lens (18-55mm is a typical example). Modern lenses, even inexpensive kit ones, are incredible items of technological innovation, capable of resolving ability unparalleled in prior many years.

What can make most rail images stand out, no matter whether it be from prior decades or today, is the subject matter, the framing, and the means to create a scene. Invariably we can not get the solar in the correct location, the underframe of the practice is also dark, a train popped up unexpectedly in a distinct way, or the only cloud in the sky resolved to park ideal more than wherever you are.

There is an aged adage with newspaper photographers f8 and be there. How you craft the scene in front of you relies upon on expertise, encounter, and a lot of luck. Not every single shot is going to be a winner, but when all the things arrives alongside one another, you are going to know it. And no a person is heading to care what lens you employed.

Most likely Hal Miller of sister Kalmbach publication Typical Toy Trains, and former Managing Editor of Trains sums it up ideal.

“You’ll hardly ever listen to any one seeking at an exciting picture say, ‘Well it is wonderful but it would have been far better if he’d employed ‘X’ lens or ‘Y’ camera.’ You had been possibly there and you got the shot, or you did not.”

Santa Fe black and white train on track
The Grand Canyon Constrained at Mojave, Calif. The engineer is looking through a coach order as viewed with his head out the window, in the meantime passengers and mail are loaded in the distance. Richard Steinheimer


train rounding curve in mountains
The photographer rides Pennsylvania prepare TT-1 close to Horseshoe Curve in February 1960. Note 4-6-2 No. 1361 on display at still left. Don Wooden