How to not blur the front of trains

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leomartin125

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Hi Guys,

Hopefully going to see the Flying Scotsman at Finsbury Park tomorrow and wanted some advice on rail photography, particularly on Steam Trains. I don't usualy take pictures, I do videos as I'm always scared I could mess up a picture much easier. I have a Canon EOS 750D DSLR and wanted to know what setting I should have it on to get a perfect in focus shot of it passing the station? ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speeds would all be helpful.

Many Thanks,
Leo
 
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Haydn1971

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Set your camera to AF-Servo, practice with some passing trains first. I'd advocate using aperture priority mode, opening your lens up to the widest (low f number), set your ISO at auto and see how you go.

I can't stress that you get some practice shots in before with other trains and review your results.

I posted a few days ago about the triad of exposure - worth a read too
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Oh and don't try and track pan - you'll come a cropper without practice, especially if you are close to the trackside.
 

leomartin125

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Set your camera to AF-Servo, practice with some passing trains first. I'd advocate using aperture priority mode, opening your lens up to the widest (low f number), set your ISO at auto and see how you go.

I can't stress that you get some practice shots in before with other trains and review your results.

I posted a few days ago about the triad of exposure - worth a read too
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Oh and don't try and track pan - you'll come a cropper without practice, especially if you are close to the trackside.

Thanks Haydn1971 for your help, I will try out a number of things for my camera and see what suits me best and what works and what doesn't. I'll arrive in plenty of time to get some practice on other passing trains.

Thanks again,
Leo
 

leomartin125

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Hi everyone,

Will be visiting Reading station on Saturday to get some pictures of the Tre Pol + Pen railtour and wanted some advice on what settings to use for photography for my Canon 750D DSLR? Will be stationary so that helps but just wanted some general advice on what settings make the picture look good? Should I shoot RAW or stick to JPEG?

Thanks,
Leo
 

leomartin125

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Hi all,

Am going out to get some night shots of an IEP going through Southall tomorrow morning, wanted some advice on what settings are best on my Canon EOS 750D at 5am in the morning?

Thanks.
 

leomartin125

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Hi,

I'm an amatuer railway photographer using a Canon EOS 750D DSLR and have only recently been starting to take pictures of trains, and I'm having an issue with the fast ones. The picture itself is fine when taken but the fornt of the train is slightly blurred somewhat, and I wanted to know how I can avoid this? Many othe pictures people take of high speed trains look fine with no blur, what am I doing wrong or not doing?

Thanks,
Leo
 

AM9

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Hi,

I'm an amatuer railway photographer using a Canon EOS 750D DSLR and have only recently been starting to take pictures of trains, and I'm having an issue with the fast ones. The picture itself is fine when taken but the fornt of the train is slightly blurred somewhat, and I wanted to know how I can avoid this? Many othe pictures people take of high speed trains look fine with no blur, what am I doing wrong or not doing?

Thanks,
Leo

You have two choices to reducing the blur on fast moving objects:
1) track the front of the train as it approaches/passes. This will reduce the amount of change whilst the shutter is open.
2) open the aperture up and/or increase the ISO figure to allow the shutter speed to be increased, once again meaning less change in the scene during the exposure.

Of the two main techniques, tracking is the better but needs a steady hand and good camera control. It also works better if there isn't much light about and the aperture is fully open. A bonus to tracking the moving subject is that the static background may appear blurred, not only giving the impression of speed, but also focussing the viewer's interest more on the subject itself.
 

leomartin125

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Thanks for the advice AM9, I will consider that when shooting next! I already focus on the object as best as I can and my Aperture was on F4 when I shoot so thats the lowest I can go for it. Should I be shooting in Manual mode like I am or shoot in aperture priority?

Thanks,
Leo
 

AM9

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Thanks for the advice AM9, I will consider that when shooting next! I already focus on the object as best as I can and my Aperture was on F4 when I shoot so thats the lowest I can go for it. Should I be shooting in Manual mode like I am or shoot in aperture priority?

Thanks,
Leo

Sorry, maybe I misled you over the aperture setting. Increasing the shutter speed will require a larger aperture (smaller number). That will of course require a more precise focus as the depth of field will decrease. If the conditions are not that bright, you may run out of apreture before the speed is hogh enough so the ISO setting will alow more sensitivity. There is a catch with that as (eventuall) the image will become noisy as you turn the gain (ISO) up.
The best mode is 'Tv' which is shutter priority. Swich to that mose and then adjust the speed with the wheel (I think that the wheel is still there on a 750D) on the RHS top on the camera. The camera will then automatically keep the picture at the correct light levels.
For focus, if you can manually st the focus at the correct distance before the subjects arrive, e.g. set it for the track at the spot you want to capture it at. This will prevent the auto-focus from hunting around and locking onto something else.
It will take a certain amount of trial and error so best to try shooting anything that is passing first.
 

ComUtoR

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I am a very very new photographer. A recent trip to Brands Hatch really helped me with shutter speeds.

I set it to Shutter Priority and kept ramping up the speeds till I hit the sweet spot. Granted I had more time to play and many opportunities but the shutter speed was all I was messing with and I let the camera do the rest.

What I also did was set it to burst mode and I found that helped a lot and even managed to get a few lucky shots.

Mine is a Cannon "Bridge" Camera.
 

Bevan Price

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For a really fast train (100 mph+), you need a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or faster. For many freights, and Sprinter type dmus, etc., you can probably get good results at about 1/500 second. If you use slower shutter speeds, then you are always liable to get some motion blur with moving trains.

You may also get some blur if you try to use auto-focussing in very flat lighting conditions, or if you try to focus on part of a curved surface (e.g. the front of Pendolinos).
 

Bevan Price

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Your main problem will probably be other photographers getting in the way.

If the train is stopped for a few minutes, I suggest you take photographs at several different exposure conditions, using both auto exposure & manual exposure modes. Choice of ISO speed, shutter speed, etc. will depend on the weather & lighting conditions. Choose a shutter speed fast enough to avoid problems with camera shake.

It is easy to delete unsuccessful exposures, so better to take too many than too few.
 

AM9

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For a really fast train (100 mph+), you need a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or faster. For many freights, and Sprinter type dmus, etc., you can probably get good results at about 1/500 second. If you use slower shutter speeds, then you are always liable to get some motion blur with moving trains.

Hence my comments about larger apertures and 'running out of sensitivity'. That's why panning with the moving subject with manual focus preset to the correct distance is usually better.

You may also get some blur if you try to use auto-focussing in very flat lighting conditions, or if you try to focus on part of a curved surface (e.g. the front of Pendolinos).

Once again, preset manual focus is the better way ahead. There's plenty to set the focus up on before the desired train arrives.
 

Islineclear3_1

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What shutter speed are you using? You need a much faster shutter speed than 1/1000 for 100+mph trains !!!

Your problem is that when you press the shutter to take the picture, the front of the train will have moved closer to the camera (more so than the rest of the train) hence the blur

I find I have to use a shutter speed of at least 1/640 - 1/800 for trains moving even at around 50mph which I then ramp up to about 1/2000 (at least) for 100mph+ trains

Shutter priority should be used (instead of aperture priority) and from my experience, focus tracking is a) too slow, and b) the camera may set the focus point to the wrong point meaning pot luck as to what part of the photo is acceptably sharp

Of course, when you increase shutter speed, you will also need to increase aperture and ISO to obtain correct exposure.
 
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leomartin125

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Hi guys,

An example of my issue can be seen here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/25785321102/in/dateposted-public/

The train was travelling at 75mph but I had my shutter speed at 1/320 at the time, which has resulted in slight blurring of the front of the train. I will definitely try speeding up the shutter speed and bringing it up to 1/640 or similar for freight trains and certainly over 1/1000 for fast moving pendolino's and trains. I think this could resolve my issue, thanks to everyone for your feedback.

Regards,
Leo
 

ANDYS

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Leo,

I have two much older Canon's then yours and so suffer a little if the light is not great. As previous posters have suggested, keep the shutter speed up higher if you can. This photo was taken on Saturday at Wigan.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/25793699262/

I estimate the speed would have been the same as your photo (75ish) and it was heading north so was not best lit even in the dull conditions. The shutter speed was 1/1000.

A little while latter, and under the roof at Preston, I was able to get this 70 with 1/640. It was travelling slower (50ish). Any faster and it would not have worked.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/25282083764/

Finally, these 350's were belting along (100 easy) but still did not come out perfectly at 1/1600!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/18024310659/in/album-72157635291353240/

Also remember that light plays a huge part in photography (as the name would suggest) and so you should also consider where the sun is, how strong it is and other lighting factors.

If you get a chance have a look at my flickr site. I put most of my decent photos on and you can see all the tech details alongside them. Me and my son have been lucky enough to have some published so they cannot all be bad (https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157658449413315)

Any problems / questions drop me a line.

Andy S
 
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Islineclear3_1

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This looks more like a focusing error. Camera lenses have a plane of (best) focus so that anything in front or behind of the focus plane will be slightly defocused. The front of the train has moved in advance of the plane of focus so that the front is blurred whilst the rest of the picture from halfway down the loco (and the rest of the train) is in acceptable focus.

If it was just a slow shutter speed, I would expect motion blur

What lens were you using? It might be worthwhile you looking up the specs and check out the minimum focus distance. Any part of the subject in advance of that minimum focus distance (i.e. closer to the lens) will be defocused.

Don't worry, I have this problem sometimes such as if I'm taking a photo in a hurry
 

Bevan Price

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Hence my comments about larger apertures and 'running out of sensitivity'. That's why panning with the moving subject with manual focus preset to the correct distance is usually better.

.

Panning is alright if you only want the train in focus. It is often less successful if you also want the location to be in sharp focus.

Another thing to note is that there can be a slight time delay between pressing the shutter and the camera recording the photograph. If the train is very close, the photo may "miss" part of the front of the train.
 

AM9

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Panning is alright if you only want the train in focus. It is often less successful if you also want the location to be in sharp focus.

Another thing to note is that there can be a slight time delay between pressing the shutter and the camera recording the photograph. If the train is very close, the photo may "miss" part of the front of the train.

Which is why tracking the subject with a pan keeps it in frame. This gives a longer opportunity to catch it if there is a shutter delay.
 

Islineclear3_1

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Firstly get there a bit early, make yourself known to platform staff and ask permission if necessary - otherwise get yourself in the right spot and take a couple of "dummy shots" to gauge lighting/exposure etc so that you are ready when the train arrives.

You may not know if the train will stop or pass through so you need to be prepared for either. My personal suggestion is to have one shooting mode for if the train stops (e.g. aperture priority, manual mode) and a second shooting mode that you can change to quickly with different settings dialed in (i.e. higher shutter speed/iso etc) so that you can change quickly if required.

What lens(es) are you planning to take? A zoom gives you more flexibility but doesn't have a wide maximum aperture like a prime.

Check the weather before you go, is it likely to be overcast or sunny. If sunny, where is the sun likely to be in relation to the train. What would you do if it were sunny, you were poised for the shot and a big cloud passed over just at the moment of shooting - would you be prepared?
 

Jonny

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This looks more like a focusing error. Camera lenses have a plane of (best) focus so that anything in front or behind of the focus plane will be slightly defocused. The front of the train has moved in advance of the plane of focus so that the front is blurred whilst the rest of the picture from halfway down the loco (and the rest of the train) is in acceptable focus.

If it was just a slow shutter speed, I would expect motion blur

What lens were you using? It might be worthwhile you looking up the specs and check out the minimum focus distance. Any part of the subject in advance of that minimum focus distance (i.e. closer to the lens) will be defocused.

Don't worry, I have this problem sometimes such as if I'm taking a photo in a hurry

Seconded about the plane of focus issue, it looks like that rather than motion blur, but minimum focusing distance is usually within a metre or two. The issue appears to be depth of focus, which increases with F number (but light, and hence exposure time, falls however). Using a relatively high Av setting may give good results, even if the exposure time is longer.

PS I would go for servo AF as well.
 

PaxVobiscum

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Seconded about the plane of focus issue, it looks like that rather than motion blur, but minimum focusing distance is usually within a metre or two. The issue appears to be depth of focus, which increases with F number (but light, and hence exposure time, falls however). Using a relatively high Av setting may give good results, even if the exposure time is longer.

PS I would go for servo AF as well.

Agreed. According to the EXIF data, the lens is the kit EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM which can be a bit iffy towards the edges (I have one) and tends to get a bit more fuzzy with age (it has a plastic body which flexes and becomes a bit looser). A prime lens of good quality may help - you can always crop the image a bit if required.

I don't have access to your original image, but a comparing a detail of the front of the train with a detail from the sign on a lamp post (which was not moving at 75 mph :) ) may cast some light on the problem:
 

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JohnB57

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The problem is motion blur, pure and simple.

Leo has diagnosed the problem and the solution from previous advice:

The train was travelling at 75mph but I had my shutter speed at 1/320 at the time, which has resulted in slight blurring of the front of the train. I will definitely try speeding up the shutter speed and bringing it up to 1/640 or similar for freight trains and certainly over 1/1000 for fast moving pendolino's and trains. I think this could resolve my issue, thanks to everyone for your feedback.

Don't be frightened of upping the ISO a bit - slight noise is better than blur or too little DoF and the 750D is pretty good at higher ISOs.

If you have a few quid to play with, the new 50mm f/1.8 STM is excellent for the price and an affordable way into prime lenses. Watch out for shallow depth of field at wide apertures though.
 

ComUtoR

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What did you do to resolve.... the issue ? I noticed they were all 1/1250
 
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