Old 07-27-2006, 03:36 PM   #1
a231pacific
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Default Creative use of Light

With all of the recent discussions of how to get high sun shots in and how RP requires perfect sun, have you noticed that the two top shots for 7/26-7/27 both involved very different and non sunny lighting?

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=152778

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=152813
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Old 07-27-2006, 04:20 PM   #2
Joe the Photog
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Well, one is a night time shot and the other is a snowy shot. You obviously can't have sunny conditions at night and, well, the snow shot is, well, a snow shot.


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Old 07-27-2006, 06:28 PM   #3
John West
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Smile Lighting, lighting, lighting

But I think for the benefit of new photographers Michael's point is an important one. Proper lighting is a function of the picture.

The sun over the shoulder rule is a very important starting point for new photogs, but it is only a starting point. Some of the discussions here seem to imply it is some kind of absolute, which is sending the wrong message regarding the importance of creativity and good judgement.
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Old 07-28-2006, 12:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
But I think for the benefit of new photographers Michael's point is an important one. Proper lighting is a function of the picture.

The sun over the shoulder rule is a very important starting point for new photogs, but it is only a starting point. Some of the discussions here seem to imply it is some kind of absolute, which is sending the wrong message regarding the importance of creativity and good judgement.
Completely agree with you guys. I'm getting pretty bored with shooting by the traditional "behind the back", "don't shoot at the peak of a summer's day", 3/4 wedge rules that seem to be all too commonly followed around here. It's almost as if there is this unpublished "list" of prerequisites one needs to abide. I'm ready to challenge myself and move into the big-time, but most of my attempts at stepping out of the box are mediocre at best.

I know we're dealing with a lot of situational unknowns when it comes to varying light and subject matter, but what kind of advice can you give?

By the way, to Michael and John, welcome to the forums! Your experience and expertise are truly welcome.

Last edited by ccaranna; 07-28-2006 at 12:58 AM.
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Old 07-28-2006, 02:08 AM   #5
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Chuck,

The answer for me was to go on a rail tour to South Africa with a bunch of British photographers. That trip was like a master class in the use of light. Alan Crotty, who posts here, was one of the participants on the tour and I learned a lot from him and the others.

I once asked why British Photographers seem to have such a command of light. Bob Avery, who also posts some of his photos on RP, said it was because they have so little of it, they need to maximize it when they get it! It was probably said only partly in jest!

My own theory is that British steam engines have fairly plain front ends, with no headlights and often no number boards, so there was no particular need to have the front end fully lit. Back and side lighting produces dramatic shadows that define the background scenery and highlight the smoke and steam. US steam locomotives had much more interesting front ends and photographers here developed a frontal 3/4 style which has carried over into diesel photography. Interestingly, I'm seeing more British diesel shots done in the American style lately.

Anyway, John West pointed out some of what I was getting at with my initial post, but I was also trying to point out that it seems there have been more interesting and high quality shots being posted lately. Based on the number of hits, they are getting looked at too.

RP has had a reputation as a place where creative photographers need not apply, but this seems not to be the case anymore. I first took a look at RP, after reading some critical comments in a yahoo group, which shall remain nameless, just to see what the fuss was about. The first thing I saw were some great shots by John West and I thought, there's some good stuff here! After lurking for a while, I decided to try posting a few of my own shots, partly to see if I could buck the trend of 3/4 wedgies which still dominate the site. (Nothing against 3/4 shots, I take them myself, it's just that variety is nice!)

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Old 07-28-2006, 02:25 AM   #6
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Michael, what is your feeling about shooting steam versus diesels? I have always felt that exeptional diesel images can't always compete with exeptional steam images, due to the differing natures of the beasts. To me, steam has more potential photogenically speaking. Would you agree, and how does your approach differ from one type to the other? Do you enjoy shooting steam more?
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Old 07-28-2006, 02:51 AM   #7
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Chuck,

I'm a steam guy, but it probably has more to do with my liking steam engines then anything to do with photography.

That said, nothing can beat a steam shot with a back lit steam plume, but diesels have one (actually two) major advantages over steam engines for photography. 1.) They are readily available! 2.) Diesels don't block out the background scenery with the smoke plume or cast shadows from the smoke plume, often on themselves.

Shooting Morant's Curve for example, the majestic mountains in the background are a major part of the shot. If you look at the steam shots, both mine and Peter Bowler's, we shot the steamer while it was well back in the curve, so that the steam trail wasn't obscuring the mountains. If I had shot the steamer in the foreground position, as I did with a diesel freight, the mountains would have been mostly blotted out. My diesel shot is the better picture at this location.

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Old 07-28-2006, 03:00 AM   #8
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Smile Improving your photographic skills

Whole libraries, not just books, have been written on this subject, but here are a few thoughts.

Look at other people's pix and get an idea of what you like, maybe some specific examples to copy.

Think about why you are taking a picture. Is it news, a pretty scene, interesting graphics, the "feel" of railroading, or perhaps human interest. The why can greatly affect things like what is appropriate lighting.

Get early, stay up until after sunset, and (maybe) take a nap midday....and go out in bad weather. Take advantage of snow if you can.

One rule of thumb is "lighting, lighting, lighting." Lighting is the critical element in most good photos. Look for scenes that have lighting that makes them interesting. Generally (but not always) good light is light that increases contrast in a scene. Think about ways to exploit unusual lighting....the night shots, the glint shots, the sunrises and sunsets, etc.

Take advantage of the non-rail scenery around you. Mountains, farmlands, rivers, city scapes, interesting trackage, etc. Here at Railpix I have seen some neat pix of city stuff, like switching city streets, etc. Most really good rail pix got that way by taking advantage of not only the train but something in the scene surrounding it.

Learn how your camera works and a bit about the technical stuff about light and photography.

Be patient. The better the photograph the more likely luck had something to do with it.

Take lots of pictures, try bracketing if your camera allows, and be prepared to throw away a lot of shots that simply don't work (back to the luck thing). I've worked with pros who immediately tossed out 90 percent of their pictures before they even started editing seriously. With film that can be expensive, but with digital it's only electrons.

And again, be patient. A lot of the pix you see here are the result of years of photography.

And think about variety. In my book variety is the spice of life. Try different angles, and so on.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Others can add to this list substantially. And some of the points can probably be debated as a matter of style and technique.

Hm, in rereading this after posting, it turned out a bit more long winded than I had intended. My apologies.

John

Last edited by John West; 07-28-2006 at 10:04 PM.
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