In early December, I took a single day trip to Akita Prefecture for an assignment. Akita is about 3-4 hours from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) so suffice it to say this was a very brief trip! There was snow in the forecast though, so I was excited about potential photographic opportunities. However, with nearly 8 hours of total travel and a job to do for much of the day, there wouldn’t be much spare time for that. Thus, I tried to make the most of the snowy scenes I saw from the shinkansen on my way up. As you might imagine, getting quality images from a bullet train in the falling snow is not an easy task! Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when shooting in a situation like this:
- Use a high shutter speed. A higher shutter speed will help counteract the speed of the vehicle, as well as any shaking that might arise from it.
- Use a lower aperture. Windows in any vehicle are likely to have scratches and dirt on them. In this case, snow could even be on the outside of the window. Using a lower aperture will blur this, often enough to be unnoticeable. This also allows you to increase your shutter speed. And since in this case I was shooting objects in the distance, the shallow depth of field was not a problem for sharpness.
- Get as close to the window as possible. This will help protect against glare from lights inside the vehicle, and will also help further blur any debris on the window. If you can cover the camera somehow, either with a coat or products like a Lens Skirt, this can further help protect against glare.
- Don’t go wide. Most of these images were shot with a 50mm lens. I also used an 85mm. A wide angle lens in this situation would have made it harder to find a good subject, filled the foreground with distractions, and likely introduced glare, among other things.
- Don’t worry about a looking ahead. Even if you can see what’s coming, you don’t have time to put a lot of thought into composition. You’re better off setting up, focusing in the distance, and waiting for something good to come into your frame. You’ll certainly miss some things you’ll wish you could have shot, but that’s just part of the deal.
My goal in this situation was to create photos with a minimalist feel to them. Using the above thoughts, I think that I was able to do that. Especially since I was traveling alone, being able to use the time for something productive was a nice bonus.
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