Travelling the Rockies by train? Here’s how to take the best photos
Capture memorable moments during a journey by rail with these useful photography tips
People who have traversed the Rockies by rail will tell you itʼs the most relaxing way to see a large variety of British Columbia and Alberta’s remarkable wilderness up close. But capturing the photographic beauty of the mountains, canyons, rivers, waterfalls and the wildlife can present a challenge, particularly if you’re on a gently swaying train.
Rocky Mountaineer, which provides luxury journeys by rail to destinations including Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, Alta., is used to fielding questions from guests eager to capture and share the best photographic highlights of their trip with friends back home.
One of the first benefits of traveling by rail through the Rockies is that Rocky Mountaineer is an all-daylight journey, and the trains travel at a photo-friendly speed of 50 kilometres an hour. The train will even slow down at particularly scenic spots to allow guests to line up their best shots.
But what's the best approach to chronicling this kind of trip of a lifetime? Here are eight tips we sourced from Rocky Mountaineer and the pros themselves.
Take care with glare
Windows make train photography different from most types of travel photography. Glare can obscure your images, so position your camera close to the glass to eliminate it. With certain cameras, you can use a rubber hood on the lens to reduce reflection and prevent damage to your equipment. Also be sure to turn off the automatic flash feature.
Get pictures on the move
The natural movement of the train as it travels along the tracks presents a minor challenge. If youʼre aiming for a blurred-effect motion shot, it's not a big problem, but getting a sharp, stop-action photo is more difficult.
“Brace yourself and take a wide stance as you stand, to absorb some of the motion,” advises Vancouver-based professional photographer Jett Britnell, whose travel photos have graced some 55 magazine covers. You may also want to bring along a monopod – a long metal stick or pole to which you can affix your camera for stability. (A selfie stick is an example of a monopod.)
Be ready for wildlife
If you see elk beside the tracks or an osprey overhead, there may not be a lot of time to grab your camera and start making adjustments, so keep it set it to a fast shutter speed and high ISO (which increases your cameraʼs sensitivity to light) to get shots you might otherwise miss. When you're off the train in wildlife-friendly destinations, donʼt forget to maintain a safe distance between you and any wildlife you might encounter.
Make some new friends
Donʼt overlook taking interior shots of the train, as those can be memorable, too. Just be considerate of other guests if you plan to post pictures of them on your social channels. Show them your images and ask for their permission before posting anything online.
Go for gold
Rocky Mountaineer recommends that guests interested in photography should book their passage in GoldLeaf Service. With its bi-level coach, glass-dome windows and an open-air viewing platform, you'll have plenty of opportunities for taking great shots. “When there's a turn in the tracks, line up your shot so that you can get the train in your picture as well,” Britnell advises.
Ask the locals
Given their familiarity with the routes, onboard Hosts know in advance when a good photo opportunity is coming up, and will give guests plenty of notice. On Rocky Mountaineer, photo ops, such as a remarkable trestle bridge, the incredible Pyramid Falls or a dramatic view of Mount Robson are listed in the train’s onboard Mile Post newspaper, so guests can be prepared.
Navigating dark and light
Lighting conditions can change from one moment to the next. To cover the widest range, keep your camera set to automatic or be prepared to make adjustments in shutter speed and aperture as you go. When shooting landscapes and you have the option to change lenses, choose a wide-angle focal length range (14 mm to 35 mm).
Relive the best moments
Photos are meant to be shared and they provide the perfect opportunity to do some of your own storytelling. Is it time to make up some new stories of your own?
Is it time to explore?
Rocky Mountaineer travels across four routes through the Pacific Northwest and into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Its GoldLeaf Service, launched in 1995, features bi-level, glass-dome coaches with stunning panoramic views on the upper level and a dining room and outdoor viewing platform on the lower level. SilverLeaf Service features oversized windows, delicious meals served at your seat, and the same impeccable service and astounding views.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.