How I got that shot - The 1542 to Newcastle

How I got that shot - The 1542 to Newcastle

Focus Editor Philip shows how he captured a moving train at the optimum moment and how to overcome some of the challenges of railway photography

I've always been fascinated by trains; I think they make a compelling photographic subject. During an exploration walk of my local area, I discovered a stretch of path that ran right next to the railway line (the cross-country line linking Newcastle with Carlisle) without any fencing or other obstructions. I felt this could make an excellent spot for photographing the trains as they zoomed by, so I got to work with trying to make that happen.

After a few attempts, I got a result I was pleased with, and below you'll see my favourite image from this location, along with a breakdown of how I got that shot.

It's all about planning and timing in advance

Having found a location that I felt would work for a great photograph, the next thing was to work out when precisely the trains were going to be passing.

This took a bit of calculating, but I used the UK's National Rail app, which gives me live departure and arrival times for my local station. I could work out approximately when the trains would pass the spot where I would be standing (a few minutes before or after leaving the station).

I used the National Rail app (screenshot) to see live arrival and departure times from my local station, so I knew where to be at the moment the train passed

I made sure I got there in plenty of time to get myself in position and dial in the appropriate settings. The trains would be zooming by in seconds, so it was essential to get prepared in advance. This does involve a bit of standing around, but it's worth it for the best results!

"The window of opportunity for this shot was so short that I needed to shoot with Burst Mode on my camera."

This took a bit of calculating, but I used the UK's National Rail app, which gives me live departure and arrival times for my local station. I could work out approximately when the trains would pass the spot where I would be standing (a few minutes before or after leaving the station).

The window of opportunity for this shot was so short that I needed to shoot with Burst Mode on my camera. This is where you hold down the shutter, and multiple frames are fired in rapid succession, usually between 4-12 frames. It's challenging to capture the perfect moment with just one shot, so by using burst mode, I had a better chance of catching the train at the optimum moment and could select the best frame from the series in the editing process afterwards.

The editing process

What could I have done better? Getting the best shot in-camera

Better light at the location could have helped create a more dynamic look for the image, I photographed this on a dull, overcast day, and therefore it took a lot of work to get the best results in post-production. It's better to try and get the optimum look in-camera as much as possible.

Some previous attempts where it didn't go quite right

I'd visited this spot before; however, the resulting photos weren't my best. One thing that I underestimated was just how fast the train would speed past me. I had dialled in shutter speeds of 1/5s, 1/15s and 1/30s for the images below (taken with a tripod), but there was still too much blur for my liking in all of these. I also don't think the landscape orientation works particularly well for this shot, so the next time around, I opted for portrait orientation (and looking down the line rather than face-on), which I feel works far better.

1/5s | f/10 | ISO 320
1/15s | f/7.1 | ISO 400
1/30s | f/5.6 | ISO 400

LIMITED TIME OFFER: Upgrade now to save 50% on Picfair Plus with code BLACKFRIDAY50

Shopping list:

- Camera: Fujifilm
- Polarizer filter: Urth
- App: National Rail

Further reading:

- See our top tips for photographing trains

- For an overview of how shutter speed works see our beginner's guide to shutter speed

- See our guide on how to use gradients to enhance your photography