Jumping Someone Else’s Train* | 11 October 2019
Continuing with an occasional series of photographs taken spontaneously while travelling by train.
With only a second to compose and shoot each photograph, normal elements of photographic control are abandoned in favour of dirty windows, reflections, incidental elements and happy accidents.
This set of photographs were taken last Friday when the weather offered little more than grey overcast skies, with heavy cloud and lots of rain. I knew I wasn’t about to get the most uplifting set of photographs but liked the idea of capturing some of the atmosphere on a rather bleak October day.
I don’t know if there is a genre of photography that concerns itself with the particular style of image making described above? And if there is whether it has a name? All the same it is one that I find most enjoyable. The best technique I have found to take such images is to switch to manual focus mode. The problem in auto-focus is that the camera may decide to acquire focus on a blob of mud stuck on the window rather than the splendid chimney or burn’t out car I had hoped to capture. At 100mph there isn’t a second chance for the same photograph! On every occasion I have taken photographs while travelling by train I end up with a unique set of images. When reviewing this set they revealed some pleasant surprises photographically and they also provided some opportunity for reflection about train travel.
It’s interesting to think these images represent part of an experience shared by hundreds of people, all hurtling along the rails, all heading in the same direction. The same views from the window, each passenger with a different story and a different destination. When I look at these photographs I think about the stories of other passengers. I wonder what they might be thinking as they look out of the window at an empty, rain soaked railway station or the grey skies as a backdrop to a concrete tower block. Perhaps their sights are accompanied by a powerfully dramatic musical soundtrack? Maybe the woman gazing quietly out of the window is actually seeing very little of what is in front of her? Maybe everything for her is a blur because she is distracted by the grief of losing a loved one. So many stories all rushing through the landscape together. Maybe some will relate to it as a shared experience and maybe some will also be ponder the lives of their fellow travellers. I like to think the romance of train travel isn’t completely dead. However, it is true to say that under the weight of so much technology our behaviour when occupying shared spaces is changing. Personally my behaviour isn’t changing that much and I enjoyed sharing a packet of chocolate coated ginger biscuits with a fellow traveller…
In a mad, fast and ever accelerating world, taking time to ponder fleeting moments is a way of stepping back from the madness. These photographs are, among other things, perhaps about enjoying the journey and not simply rushing to a destination.
To view an earlier series of photographs taken while travelling by train click HERE
Click on any thumbnail below to view the photographs in a gallery
*The title for this blog post is borrowed from an early single by The Cure. Click THIS LINK to view an unofficial video – which in my view is far more fun than the original 🙂
I like this. I have a train journey coming up shortly, so might give a go myself. I have a little Pentax Espio 35mm compact that has an infinity focus mode that prevents the camera focussing on the glass when shooting through windows that might come in handy. 🙂
Thank you. It is a fun way to take photographs with unpredictable outcomes particularly depending on the amount of light. With lots of sunlight there are more reflections from things inside the carriage. With digital it is possible to use the cameras screen of course whereas composing your shots with your little Espio will be dependent on the viewfinder which I’m guessing will present it’s own challenges that so far I have avoided!
I published these as a set because they represent my outward journey and I have another set of images taken on my return trip. I will post these over the next few days.
I hope to see some of your train photographs on your site 🙂