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Photo Tips

Photographing from moving platforms part 2

Jackie Ranken

Photographing from a car or bus.

The view from the back seat in a taxi can communicate all sorts of things. Not only the view out the front window but also it can tell a story about where you are and how you feel about it.

Look at the three images below and notice how each has a different story.

  • Take your time to really try and understand what it is that I am trying to communicate.
  • Notice that your eye will go to what is correctly exposed and what is in focus. 

View from the back seat in a minibus on the road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Cambodia

A sinister mood has been created by the dark negative space that I left in the composition and to me, the greenish colour tone adds to this unease.  Notice the reflection of a woman and man's face in the window screen.  These transparent reflective faces reminded me the Khmer Rouge and the genocide carried out against the Cambodian people by Pol Pot. 

The depth of focus is narrow and my eye goes straight to the reflective faces as well as the creepy sunglasses. (I feel like I am in prison.)

 Phnom Penh minibus –f4, 1/1000th sec, 160 ISO, focal length @85mm on Canon 5DMKIII

Phnom Penh minibus –f4, 1/1000th sec, 160 ISO, focal length @85mm on Canon 5DMKIII


The image below was made in Mandalay, Myanmar.

Sitting in the back of a very small blue taxi looking through a peephole to the cabin.  The wide-angle lens creates a kind of panorama of the scene. 

Notice how the wide angle lens has a widish depth of focus even at f4. What is close to the lens gets bigger and what is far away is smaller. My fast shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. has frozen any camera shake as well as the movement of the steering wheel.

"What a funky old car"  Mandalay was full of them in 2011

The planet keeps changing, be sure to visit Myanmar before it moderises too much. 

 Mandalay-Burma Taxi Driver-f8, 1/600th sec, 500 ISO, focal length @17mm on Canon 5DMKIII

Mandalay-Burma Taxi Driver-f8, 1/600th sec, 500 ISO, focal length @17mm on Canon 5DMKIII

We are travelling back to Myanmar in October 29-Nov 11 2018 with a group of ten photographers. We all won't fit into a car like this because we have our own bus but it will be a great opportunity to make some great 'moving' travel images. Like the one below.


Photographing from a bus is obviously higher than a car.

From the open side window I was able to look down and into this street stall. A slow shutter speed of 1/2 a second captured the motion of the car combined with the motion of my camera to create this swirl of colour. 

Within the blur, you can still see people, colourful fabric, trees, a motorbike and an umbrella.  

 Mandalay Street- f11, 1/2 second, 100 ISO, 28mm manual Focus.

Mandalay Street- f11, 1/2 second, 100 ISO, 28mm manual Focus.


 Horse-cart Taxi - The Plains of Bagan - Myanmar

Horse-cart Taxi - The Plains of Bagan - Myanmar

Lens Choice.

My Canon 24mm-105mm zoom on my Canon 5DMKIV is my go-to lens when I need the flexibility to shoot wide, as well as to be able to zoom to interesting subjects that present themselves along the way.

When shooting from a moving cart like this I choose a high ISO to make the sensor more sensitive to light so that I can choose a fast shutter speed to stop camera shake. (Auto ISO must be turned off and ISO must be manually selected or use the Sports mode if that suits because the sports mode will automatically choose a higher ISO like 400 ISO).

Ultimately there is more control when you choose lSO yourself. You will learn more about light and how much of it you need for different lighting and 'movement' situations. 

In this case, I select: 'single spot focusing' and focus on the horses head.  Wider zone focus selection may have accidentally focused on the horses rear end because it is closer to the camera. Be sure to set your camera up beforehand and/or know how to quickly switch from the different focusing modes as you go.

This comes from practice. Practice is the best teacher and the best teacher will remind you to practice. 

Remember to:

  • Keep your compositions simple and allow the content of your images to tell the story. 
  • Avoid merges where two or more shapes come together and create visual confusion.
  • Avoid distracting highlights especially on the edge of the frame.