I travel by bus; planes are expensive and I’m not in a hurry. I know the highlands, the valleys, deserts, the coast, and a bit of the jungle. I like to take snapshots of the landscape and I’ve a method that could be useful to you.
Ready to go
In first place you need to see. To observe requires you enjoying the view from the window. Otherwise is the camera the one travelling and not you. Of course this suggestion is valid if you are like me, a guy that enjoys to travel, if you are a photographer then you can skip them. This is because there are two kind of persons, the ones that take photographs of the travels they enjoy and the other a person that travels to get photographs in a portfolio to show/sell. Rarely you can be both at the same time.
You can use any camera, just try to turn off any flash in your camera so you are not going to take photos of its reflection against the window. The problems you are going to find and their solutions are the following:
Reflections in the window: Reduce them with a polarizer filter
If you see the photograph in the blue sky and the top of the rock you can see reflections of the opposite windows of the bus. They could have been even worse but the polarizer helped to reduce to the maximum any reflection.
In this photograph instead the polarizer got rid of any reflection.
Color casts from the window: use software to correct it
The colors across the windows are going to be a bit twisted and sometimes funny. To correct them you can use editing software with white balance correction, there are both free and paid programs. Usually you can pick an object known to be white (a painted wall, a sign, a cloud) and it automatically correct it. Nevertheless still the colors can end different because windows aren’t made to be optical elements but protection and source of light. A raw file is easier to correct than the common jpeg file.
One thing you can do is accept that fact and take advantage of the differences in colors.
Poles and obstacles: take quickly a second photograph
A scream in the sky
When you are traveling the car can be on the road at high speeds. So there is no way to carefully design a composition. Some like to use bracketing, I don’t like to do that, I prefer to preview in my mind how is going to change the perspective, wait until it and shot like a Jabusame (a Japanese archer on a running horse) but it’s possible that the mind reacts by instinct when there is something in the landscape. I take a photograph to discover a pole or a sign, so quickly I shot it again.
Blown highlights: use a graduated filter
You can take a photograph and suddenly you see that this happened: the land is according to your eyes but the sky is almost white and without detail. In these cases a graduated filter is mandatory, of course you can recover in software (specially with the last cameras) but the less time you live in front of a computer the better.
Discover stories: observe the highway
Waiting with loyalty
Along the highway there are evidences of stories. The most of them have not an obvious explanation because people in the countryside is always different. What happened to that car? Is the dog a watcher or is just resting? the scars of sun and rain in the textiles give a sense of time too. A story for a detective.
Dirty windows give flares: take advantage of them!
Beyond the ground a luminous place
I love flares! If you don’t like them then a lens hood could help you. In my case I like how the dirty windows (they’re always dirty) transform the light and get a diffuse and low contrast image.
Difficulty in taking photographs at twilight and night: get the most of those hours
It doesn’t matter if you have a cell phone or a giant camera: in broad day they can get nice pictures. The problem is with low light, the most basic the camera the blinder it is to low light scenaries. In those circunstances a tripod and a long exposure would be the option but in a car in movement that is just impossible. In this moment technology matters and the best camera is going to give you more useable photographs. To this first photograph I used a Fujifilm X-E1 camera and a fast 1.4 fujinon lens.
If you can get a camera with a big sensor then the night is going to be open to you. Quality films have usually low sensivity to light so they aren’t suitable for these dark hours.
Somebody else in the highway
In this photograph I used my Sony R1, it has a big sensor but it’s quite old so it’s a bit blind to the night. So I used a long exposure to get the lights of the passing cars. I knew I couldn’t get a sharp photograph but I could get photographs with movement.
End of the travel
Follow the line
So the travel ends, usually when the night is closer. Time to rest and be ready for the next trip…
Last bus to the city