Q&A: Prague Night Train | Not always about the gear

prague-train-sony-1

Question:

What settings did you use for your train photo?
What camera did you use?  Did you crop the image?


Answer:

In the last little bit, I received a few questions about my Prague Night Train photo. The one that got me a Commended Artist in the 2014 World Sony Photography contest (yep, self plug haha… top 50 out of 140k feels nice).  Check out the awesome award winners right…. here!

Figured I’d make a more complete blog post about it and how it was taken.

It is always weird answering questions about settings. They are so dependent on the photographer, the situation and the intended result. The photo was taken at ISO 800, f/6.3 and 2 seconds shutter. Why? That’s what worked. I wanted some depth of field, so shot at a smaller aperture. I didn’t want the train to be a full streak, I wanted to keep the front of the train to add some direction in the shot. So a 20 seconds shutter would of been way too slow. I also had no tripod, so keeping the camera stable with top priority.

No tripod you say? Unless I’m on a photo trip, I don’t carry a tripod. I like to travel and enjoy the trip and not worry about too much gear. The lasting memories are created with the events that happen, not with the photo I take. There are ways to keep your camera stable without a tripod. Your bag, the ground, a ledge, a branch, a car hood (not moving preferably 😉 )

We walked by the train station every day we were in Prague. It was a few minutes from our rented apartment (shout out to AirBnB… best way to travel). I had taken some day shots each time we passed.

prague-day-shot-2

prague-day-shot-1

On one night, we stopped on the overpass and decided to take a few shots  So while I didn’t have a tripod, I used the ledge of the overpass to keep the camera stable. The angle was still low, so I shoved a flat rock I found on the ground under the lens to prop it up somewhat and get at least the top of the station, even though I cut the top of the building beside and some of the lights, it still works.  Makes the top seem a little bunched and tight, with the free train running away.  Kinda.  Sorta.  haha

I had no shutter release. When doing longer exposures, keeping the camera steady is key. Tip… use the 2 second timer on your camera to reduce camera shake for longer exposures as just pressing down the shutter button will cause shake. Set the camera, put it to 2 second timer, click the shutter, let go, let it shoot.

The shot was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 50mm f/1.4. That’s all I had with me. It was light(er) to carry. And honestly, I love using a fixed focal lens as it forces me to think of composition. You can’t get every shot every time. I also had a 16-35mm, which I had left at the apartment.

You don’t need ultra high end gear for photography. Sure, some styles of photography require better gear, like shooting sports or even shows. When I first started out in photography, as with many people, I was all into the technical part of it. The quality of lenses, the little differences in the bodies. You can soooo easily get bogged down by gear.  So many reviews, so many updates.

Don’t get me wrong, you have to know the technicalities. You have to know your tools. But at some point, you start putting that behind you and you focus on emotion, style and moments.  That only comes with practice.  I’ll take a powerful emotional photo over a bland technically perfect image any day.  A bland image with no story is garbage.  An emotional technically perfect image ends up in a portfolio 🙂  I know some technically amazing show photographers who just lack that little bit of capturing the moment and anticipating things, and reacting to them. Riffling 600 shots in 14 minutes is not photography. Think…listen…feel… then snap.

Ok, back to the subject at hand   We spent about 10 minutes on that overpass, first having taken shots of the station, and then waited for a train. And then it came. And then I shot.  I believe the first shot didn’t work, so we waited for a second train to get it juuuuust right.

Here is the original image I took.

prague-train-original-1

If I had a tripod and a different lens, I could of made a nicer shot. I wouldn’t of cut the top of the lights off and composed so that I wouldn’t have to crop the image. But keeping the camera on the ledge, I had no real say in the composition I got, but I tried my best.

In summary:

– gear isn’t everything, use what you have
– the saying “the best camera is the one you have with you” is always true
– use that 2 second timer for longer exposures if you don’t have a trigger
– try and get the best image in camera, but don’t fear cropping or processing
– if you must crop, think of how you will crop when composing
– tell a story, show an emotion, capture a moment
– finding a nice scene and waiting a bit can net a funkier image

 

Gear used:

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 50mm f/1.4

A rock (in lieu of a tripod… and not to be confused with The Rock, which would of been even more epic)

Hope you enjoyed!  Make sure to follow me on Facebook for more photos, tips, thoughts and randomness.

WPO-photo

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2 Comments

  1. Ivan Cohene on March 20, 2014 at 12:25

    Congratulations my virtual friend! You do amazing work, and should think about doing a book!
    Best regards and happy shooting !
    Ivan



    • Pierre on March 20, 2014 at 13:48

      Thank you! The book is in the works, I’m just ultra picky about my stuff, so takes a while to collect enough good shots 😉