The photo I missed: photography from moving vehicles

The photo I missed: photography from moving vehicles (tour bus windows) by Boyd Guy (Facebook)

I’ll never forget the photo I missed. After a long day of travel across northern Israel, most of the photographers with me on our tour bus were sleeping. I submitted to weariness by putting my Nikon up in its travel bag on the overhead luggage rack. We were a few miles from our hotel when we came over a ridge that looked out over the Sea of Galilee. I glanced out my window and, to my great surprise, I was met with the most beautiful sight I would see on the entire trip. Thick clouds covered the entire sky with the exception of one small break right over the center of the sea. The bright moonlight filtered down into a cone, glistening on the water’s surface and illuminating the surrounding landscape. The scene before me stole my breath. I wanted to shout, “Pull the bus over NOW!” There was no time to grab my camera. Staring at the beautiful vista before me, I tried to burn the image into my mind. Unfortunately the only imprint of that image exists in my memory, not on my hard drive.

I utilize this memory from a trip many years ago to drive my travel photography in a new direction. The journey, rather than the destination, has become my favorite travel photographic opportunity. Maybe it’s the challenge, the uniqueness, the thrill of the unexpected, or maybe it’s simply the countryside that captivates my focus. Stopping is usually not an option when you are traveling with a group, on a tight schedule, or glimpse something that is not stationary. Over the years I’ve taken this challenge, somewhat out of necessity and opportunity, to hone some skills in shooting from moving buses, taxis, planes, rickshaws, etc. I have not honed this art to a perfection; I only share it to encourage you not to miss this easily neglected photo op. I’m going to share just a few of the tips that I’ve learned over the years in doing this type of travel photography.

1. Commit. – Don’t allow your plans for great travel destinations to tempt you into taking time off during the seemingly “down time” of traveling. Don’t worry about saving battery or card space. Prepare so space and power will not hinder the journey moments.

2. Zoom. – Part of the commitment for me has been to use a zoom lens and sacrifice some of that optical quality for versatility; however, I have used a fixed 50mm, which worked fine for me as well. I prefer a standard zoom for the versatility afforded. I won’t have time to change lenses or even anticipate what might be coming next. Whether it’s small details inside a cab, a scenic landscape, or city grime, be ready for any focal length. The majority of my images tend to fall into the 50-70mm FX range.

3. Settings. – Sacrifice your ISO for a faster shutter. This is the most important setting. I typically aim to have my shutter at 1/1000 or faster. I’ll plug that in and use a 3.5-5.6 aperture. On occasion I’ll allow the aperture to go below 2.8, but I’d rather it be slightly higher in case I miss that perfect focus. When shooting, try not to catch too much foreground as it will show unwanted movement.

4. Anticipate – Whatever your means of transportation, put yourself in the best position available for seeing something amazing. That means getting there early and finding the right seat next to the largest window. Look at the map and consider beforehand which side of the vehicle will allow for the best views. I try to face the mainland if the route will snake along the coast.

5. Reduce Glare – The ultimate enemy of traveling travel photography is that wretched glare. Obviously, having no window is the ideal. When there are windows, always wear black clothes. Black clothes significantly reduce window glare. On a recent trip I enveloped my head and body in a black leather jacket – just the lens protruding out. I am positive I looked ridiculous, but it worked. Look to avoid wide angle shots. The wider the angle, the more opportunity for unwanted window glare.

6. Shoot Away – Don’t stop taking photos for yourself. When photography is your livelihood it becomes tempting to only do photography that will pay bills. If you stop taking photos for yourself then you may lose your passion entirely. Don’t become the shoemaker whose kids go barefoot.

Be ready. Capture your journey. Don’t miss your “Sea of Galilee” moment.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.


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