How to Take Better Train Travel Photos

For an Internet Rail Travelogue, and for Personal Use.

By Carl Morrison at - -

(The photo examples are best viewed while online, since some references are to photos on other web pages of mine.)

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16.  Be Prepared

to take more pictures, on your trip or excursion, than you can imagine.

I have found that I take about 100 or more images a day when on vacation, a rail journey, or more on a photo assignment.  Of course I delete many and use only the best, but I never have to say, "The big one got away."

This means empty memory cards and charged batteries. Never get in a spot of having to delete pictures on the spot to take more.  All digital cameras come with a very small memory card, use that as a backup and get the largest capacity card you can buy to keep in your camera.

To insure that you do not lose images from some catastrophe with a memory stick, each night dowload your images to a laptop while on the road.

To insure that you do not lose images from some catastrophe with a computer that holds all your images, on your trip, when you have Internet access, upload copies of your images to a web-based hard drive, leaving the originals on your laptop as well.

To insure that you always have a camera, take a backup camera, even the one you've recently replaced.  Then you will not miss any once-in-a-lifetime shots.

Know your Camera.  Read the Manual.  Take your camera on your daily walks and other non-train-related trips to see what issues you need to read the manual to correct.

Take a Tripod, and/or monopod.  I cannot tell you how many images I've deleted because they involved camera movement.  At the same time, take a small flashlight so you can see the controls and the levelling bubble when you out there in the dark.

Do not depend on anything working, or rather, be prepared for equipment failures at the most critical time.  One backup is a friend on the shoot with you!  Example is photo 12.3 in this report.

When you store/archive your images, never lose the original number of the photo.  This assures that when someone wants to buy an image, you can search all your storage areas and find it by number.  Or, if you know which year it was shot, or on which trip it was shot, you can search by date.  Digital storage makes searching for images as old as your first digital camera very easy.  You can create folders for specific trips, but don't change the name of the image from the original number to a name.  I sometimes add a name in front of the image number, so I can search for it either way.

One way to identify your pictures after your rail journey is to take a portable GPS (like a palm-sized Garmin ICUE 3600).  Get the AC charger and an external antenna which can be put in the window of the rail car and either used as direct readout or plugged into your laptop.  I found this useful to check the speed of the train, the names of bodies of water we were passing, highway numbers we were paralleling, Interstate Highways we were crossing, towns we were approaching or leaving, distance to my destination, etc.  If you are writing a rail travelogue, a GPS will give you elapsed time, stopped time, and average and maximum speed.  I found that on a recent Southwest Chief trip, when I left my GPS on overnight while I was sleeping and moving around the train, we traveled over 1,000 miles at an average speed of 63 mph!  That's another thing I like about train travel, I can sleep and still travel safely all night!

Take a powerbar (many electical outlets on one bar) because you will seldom find more than one outlet in a railcar room.  This will allow you to charge camera batteries, cell phones, and power your GPS, and laptops that you take on the trip.

Take a memory card reader that plugs directly into your laptop.  You can get one that will read all types of cards you have in the various cameras with you on the trip.  This allows you to download pictures directly from your memory card leaving your camera available for shooting and more importantly not taking battery power to download pictures.

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