Old 08-10-2016, 04:35 AM   #1
spacetrain1983
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Default Dusk shot of an intermodal train

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Back on August 6th, I got this picture of a westbound UP intermodal train a few minutes after sunset. This train was running at a slower speed, presumably due to all of the people trackside to watch the fireworks across the tracks later that night. The main problems I see with this image are:
1. The noise, caused by how my camera handles low lighting, and I don't have an editor that can fix that on my PC.
2. The slight blurring of the front of the train.

However, in my mind the dusk lighting, "human aspect" (the people in the bed of the truck on the right) and the red frame stripe on the front of the locomotive are all interesting aspects, but I have my doubts about it doing much for this picture. What do you think?

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In addition, later that night, I got this shot from just about the same spot of an eastbound UP manifest. This is the only shot I got of it that was clear of dust lit up by the flash. The main problems with this that I see are:
1. The "refraction" (or whatever) of the headlights.
2. Again, the noise caused by how my camera handles low light conditions.

But some things that I think help this shot are:
1. The orange glow of the headlights, especially how they reflect off the rails in the foreground.
2. The milepost lit up by the flash at right... Kinda iffy on this one, perhaps it would help more to crop it out.
3. The signal and crossing lights reflecting off the side of the train, producing a nice red glint.

This is also after quite a bit of cropping in order to get rid of dead space.
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Old 08-10-2016, 05:03 AM   #2
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Sorry, but this site regularly rejects shots that are much better than those.
Do you take a good look at what gets accepted here?
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Old 08-10-2016, 05:05 AM   #3
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Sorry, but this site regularly rejects shots that are much better than those.
Do you take a good look at what gets accepted here?
Yes, but unfortunately circumstances beyond my control lead to me almost never getting good enough lighting.
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Old 08-10-2016, 02:06 PM   #4
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These are nowhere close to being acceptable by rp. in the first the train is partly blurred (as you acknowledged) and the light is not attractive. The mass of wires do not help either. Frankly the second is worse, it looks like just some blobs of light in the night.
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Old 08-10-2016, 03:53 PM   #5
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Sorry, but this site regularly rejects shots that are much better than those.
Do you take a good look at what gets accepted here?
This.

I'm sorry, but there's no way either of those could make it. If you're not able to find a sunny day and put a train in it going the correct direction for the lighting, you're gonna have a poor experience here.



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Old 08-10-2016, 05:08 PM   #6
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You need more practice at recognizing what makes a good picture. I don't think you are seeing the enormous differences between you shots and RP standard fare.

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However, in my mind the dusk lighting, "human aspect" (the people in the bed of the truck on the right) and the red frame stripe on the front of the locomotive are all interesting aspects, but I have my doubts about it doing much for this picture. What do you think?
The dusk lighting is blah. What do you think is special about it? If you can put it into words, we can talk about it. If you can't, well, there you are.

The human aspect has a weak presence in the frame. An earlier shot would have brought the nose of the engine - an important focal point in any wedge shot - closer to the people, making them more evident.

The red frame stripe is barely visible in this light, and at any rate is completely common, and so of no interest.

Given all that, there is little of interest, and the poor image quality trumps all that, many times over.

I do wonder if you need to remember that not every shooting occasion is going to get you an RP-quality shot. Here, the light, combined with your camera quality, means you have no chance.

Quote:
But some things that I think help this shot are:
1. The orange glow of the headlights, especially how they reflect off the rails in the foreground.
2. The milepost lit up by the flash at right... Kinda iffy on this one, perhaps it would help more to crop it out.
3. The signal and crossing lights reflecting off the side of the train, producing a nice red glint.
The "orange glow" is actually a nasty blob of light, surrounded by an orange halo which just reminds the viewer that the main element here is a nasty blob of light. The milepost does not help. There is no red glint on the side of the train, rather a few seemingly random spots of red.

Putting aside whether you have the ability to take such a shot, your camera certainly does not. Forget about trying to take such a shot. Well, if you enjoy taking such a shot, by all means continue to do so, this is all for fun! But don't think for one second that you have anything close to a shot worthy of RP consideration.

Seriously, you are nowhere close to getting something of RP value.

Sorry to be harsh. But you need to learn to be a better observer of your own shots. You will get there if you keep working at it.
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Old 08-10-2016, 11:06 PM   #7
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Seriously? Fail on so many levels
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Old 08-11-2016, 01:18 AM   #8
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Not that I'm any great photographer (or even mediocre one) but the way I learned was that I looked at others' photos and copied them. Oh, so he had the sun behind him. Oh, so he took a picture of a setting with a train in it, not just the train. Look at how sharp he got that? Look how much it looks when you don't cut off the train. Etc. etc.
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Old 08-11-2016, 03:46 AM   #9
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Old 08-11-2016, 04:08 AM   #10
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I do try. Every time I go railfanning, when I turn on the camera, I think of all of the advice I've been given on these forums. However, circumstances usually line up wrong, and something ends up wrong about the shot, usually the lighting. I bother to take the shots in the first place for my personal collection. A small percent of them I consider worth passing by the forums.
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Old 08-11-2016, 04:50 AM   #11
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Experience and greater mobility will come when you're a few years older.
Don't forget that there are other places to post photos, some of which give you 100% control of your work.
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Old 08-11-2016, 05:00 AM   #12
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I do try. Every time I go railfanning, when I turn on the camera, I think of all of the advice I've been given on these forums. However, circumstances usually line up wrong, and something ends up wrong about the shot, usually the lighting. I bother to take the shots in the first place for my personal collection. A small percent of them I consider worth passing by the forums.
Hi Spacetrain,

The next time you have a nice clear day where you are, take a walk outside around 6PM and just look at the world around you. Look at the trees, the buildings, vehicles, etc. See how pretty that light is vs. mid-day or after sunset. There is no comparison. THAT is the kind of light you want. THAT is the kind of light that will give your pictures a chance here. Photography isn't about owning a camera, or shooting anything that moves. Photography is about learning to see the light and using it to make pretty photos. If you don't have great light, you'll rarely get a great photo. If the light is not good, don't even bother taking the camera out of the bag, just enjoy what is happening around you.
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Old 08-11-2016, 06:06 AM   #13
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Hi Spacetrain,

The next time you have a nice clear day where you are, take a walk outside around 6PM and just look at the world around you. Look at the trees, the buildings, vehicles, etc. See how pretty that light is vs. mid-day or after sunset. There is no comparison. THAT is the kind of light you want. THAT is the kind of light that will give your pictures a chance here. Photography isn't about owning a camera, or shooting anything that moves. Photography is about learning to see the light and using it to make pretty photos. If you don't have great light, you'll rarely get a great photo. If the light is not good, don't even bother taking the camera out of the bag, just enjoy what is happening around you.

I have some strong agreement here, and some disagreement. First, ALL light is good for some kind of shot. The "art" is to match the shot to the light. If you only shoot one kind of light over and over, you are severely limiting yourself. There is no such thing as "good" light, but there certainly is light that works good for a specific shot. Since most all of us here are outdoor photographers, we don't control the light (unless shooting at night of course.) That being the case, we must learn how to (1) recognize different kinds of light (2) learn how to use what we have effectively. Since you can't change the light, change the kind of photos you take.

I do agree that light (use of light) is about 90% of a great photo. I do agree that really, the camera is the least important thing in photography. Recognizing and using light is most important. Ansel Adams once said, "Any photographer worth his salt should be able to create compelling photos with a Kodak Brownie."

What I think would be helpful would be if you picked two or three photos that you thought were outstanding, the kind you want to do. Study each for several minutes. What direction was the light coming from? What was the angle? How did the light interact with the main subject? If the light had been different, would this shot have worked as well? And finally, what feelings does the photo make you feel? How did the light contribute to that? In my own opinion, a good photo is one that engages your emotions.

I spent today in one of the most beautiful places in North America. It rained most of the day; thick clouds obscured the mountains that are the main attraction here. And, temperatures were in the mid 40s. Did I not go out? Did I simply not take my camera out of the bag? Hell no. I found some photo opportunities that would not have worked on a sunny day, but the soft diffuse light I had was perfect for them! This comes with experience--you are asking the right questions.


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Old 08-11-2016, 03:51 PM   #14
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While I agree with Kent (and envy him for being at the POW hotel) I think Kevin's advice is more useful right now for Spacetrain. Space train seems to be motivated to learn, but he keeps making the same mistake over and over. He needs to force himself to get away from the snap shot approach. So lets start as Kevin suggests with trying to recognize and use the kind of "good" light that makes taking better train pix easier. And I agree, start by finding some pix you like, preferably some fairly conventional wedgies, and try to figure out how to find the conditions that allows you to "copy" them. And at this point in your photographic life it will start with light. Start with have the sun shining brightly (with sharp shadows), the lower the sun the better (morning or late afternoon), and keep the sun over your shoulder. If you don't have something real close to those conditions, keep the camera in the bag and just enjoy the scene. There is a lot more to lighting than that, but lets start with the basics and once you get a few really nice wedgies you can just keep going.
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Old 08-11-2016, 04:57 PM   #15
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While I agree with Kent (and envy him for being at the POW hotel) I think Kevin's advice is more useful right now for Spacetrain. Space train seems to be motivated to learn, but he keeps making the same mistake over and over. He needs to force himself to get away from the snap shot approach. So lets start as Kevin suggests with trying to recognize and use the kind of "good" light that makes taking better train pix easier. And I agree, start by finding some pix you like, preferably some fairly conventional wedgies, and try to figure out how to find the conditions that allows you to "copy" them. And at this point in your photographic life it will start with light. Start with have the sun shining brightly (with sharp shadows), the lower the sun the better (morning or late afternoon), and keep the sun over your shoulder. If you don't have something real close to those conditions, keep the camera in the bag and just enjoy the scene. There is a lot more to lighting than that, but lets start with the basics and once you get a few really nice wedgies you can just keep going.
Spacetrain, I completely agree with John. At this point, every shot that you present to us is accompanied by an excuse for the image not being optimal (my camera won't do this, three's slight blurriness, ...). You have learned how to recognize the deficiencies in your photos, but you keep trying to shoehorn them onto RP. Except for a very few vintage or newsworthy photos, that will not work.

You seem intent on getting a photo past the screeners. The best way to do that is with a good photo. I suggest that you refocus your energy on taking good photos, and not on getting onto RP. At one point, I suggested that you find a subject in your back yard, and shoot it at varying times of the day and weather conditions. Pay attention to where the sun is, and how strong it is (blue sky, hazy, cloudy, foggy...). Compare all of the photos, and decide which ones have the best results, again noting the conditions under which they were exposed. You can apply this knowledge to trains after you have a good feel for how your camera will react to the conditions.

Does your school have a photography club? If so, get involved with that. There's much that you can learn that has nothing to do with trains, but will serve you well when you do get trackside. Remember, it's about the photos, not the website. Many of us here started long before there was an internet, and there are many great photographers who have never posted a photo on the web.

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Old 08-11-2016, 08:33 PM   #16
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I couldn't have said it better, Doug. Spacetrain, I'm happy you're here asking these questions to try to improve, and every tool to do so is right here in this thread. The only thing I would add to Doug's post is to check and see if a local community college or other community program offers a photography course available to you. Railroad photography is not different than any other photography in principle. We all must know the basics to be successful.
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:17 PM   #17
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While I agree with Kent (and envy him for being at the POW hotel) I think Kevin's advice is more useful right now for Spacetrain. Space train seems to be motivated to learn, but he keeps making the same mistake over and over. He needs to force himself to get away from the snap shot approach. So lets start as Kevin suggests with trying to recognize and use the kind of "good" light that makes taking better train pix easier.
Exactly. I have no arguments with Kent's post. I certainly don't put my camera away when the light isn't perfect. But Spacetrain isn't ready for challenging conditions. He needs to put himself in the best possible situation to succeed and the lighting he's picking right now isn't going to get him there. We all have to start someplace and that someplace for him needs to be late afternoon or early evening, on a day with no clouds filtering the sun.
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Old 08-12-2016, 06:54 AM   #18
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Exactly. But Spacetrain isn't ready for challenging conditions. He needs to put himself in the best possible situation to succeed and the lighting he's picking right now isn't going to get him there.

You have a valid point. Now, I'm going to suggest something that fits the situation. ST does not have mobility yet, but there is a work around, one I learned from a photography portrait class. Get a model train--the bigger gauge the better. Put the engine etc. on some track on your dining room table, at night. All lights off except for one table lamp--a goose neck lamp you can adjust is best. Shine the light on the train and note where the shadows fall. Keep taking shots of the model, and keep moving the light around to different angles. With the room being dark this is a pretty good approximation. Ask yourself, "Where did the light's direction work best? Where wasn't it not working at all?" You can do something similar outdoors during the day too. Have your dad park his car out in the drive way. Walk around it taking photos from different angles. What worked? What didn't? Pay attention to shadows, and to areas where the contrast (darkest dark and brightest areas) are too much for your camera to do a good job with. Try different settings to your camera's Exposure Compensation dial and see what effect that has.

Another thing to do is get in the habit to look at scenes that catch your eye as the day goes by. What direction is the light coming from? What angle? This is where you always start--those two questions. If the light is not working for the shot you have in mind, either come up with a different composition OR don't waste time on it and keep looking for a place it will work.


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Old 08-12-2016, 06:11 PM   #19
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Another thing to do is get in the habit to look at scenes that catch your eye as the day goes by. What direction is the light coming from? What angle? This is where you always start--those two questions. If the light is not working for the shot you have in mind, either come up with a different composition OR don't waste time on it and keep looking for a place it will work.
Related to this, or maybe not, revisit places. This suggestion may be driven by personal circumstances/abilities, but I often or perhaps usually don't get a good shot on my first visit to a location. I have trouble "seeing" the shot. But I take the shots I get and at home, I spend some time studying them, looking to see what I could/should have done differently. And then on my return visit I have a shot or shots in mind that I want to capture. So this is both self-study and self-critique but also planning the shot in advance. both good skills to have.
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Old 08-18-2016, 10:41 PM   #20
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Yes, but unfortunately circumstances beyond my control lead to me almost never getting good enough lighting.
You never get to shoot in sunlight? Are you trapped inside all day?
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Old 08-26-2016, 04:30 PM   #21
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Weather is beyond your control, but you have to accept that in photography.

I had a photoshoot planned this summer, had to cancel it the night before due to cloudy conditions (trying to shoot a model in the morning sun) and the 2nd attempt, we hiked to the top of a mountain, and as we got set up, clouds rolled in.

I've taken trips to MA to photograph trains, only to be hit with unexpected clouds.

Suncalc.net and Accuweather are your best friends.
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