Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just Another Train

The past weekend has been quite a good one, with an extra day holiday on Monday, it was that I needed to recover the lost times for rest and sleep due to hectic traveling around previous weekends. I thought I must have slept in at midnight on Sunday and woke up at Monday glorious noon, and it was indescribably refreshing. I miss those days when I could get unlimited hours of sleep.

Over the weekend, I had a sudden urge to utilize my trusty tripod. Somehow it was feeling wasted away collecting dust leaning on my corner room wall. Therefore I tried to find a reason to use it, and I did. I grabbed my camera with the tripod, and walked out to the nearby LRT station, Bukit Jalil and produced this shot:

At a quick glance it seemed like a simple and straightforward shot. Let me assure you otherwise, that there was nothing simple and easy at all in that one picture. To make that picture happen, I had to do the following:

1) Full Manual Control over the camera
Everything on the camera was set to full manual, from exposure on shutter speed and aperture setting, to manual focus. I forced the shutter open for over 20 seconds to capture the entire trail moving from one end of the station to the other. I stopped down the aperture to F11 to prevent the photo from getting over-exposed. Obviously focus has to be set to manual, so when the train arrived I could fire the shutter right away without the camera hunting for the speeding train !!!

2) Circular Polarizer (CPL)
Under the roof of the brightly lit train station of Bukit Jalil, setting the shuter speed more than 10 seconds would produce an incredibly bright image unless I stop down the aperture to F16 or smaller. Since my lens is just a kit lens, and loss of sharpness and image quality are inevitable if I set my aperture number too high, I have to limit the usage under F13. Applying a CPL on the lens helped balanced up the brightness of the ceiling fluorescent lights, while maintaining the details of the passing trains. On top of that, I could get away with aperture of F11 at shutter speed more than 20 seconds.

3) Tripod
Since very long exposure was adopted for the shot, a tripod is essential.

4) Second Curtain Flash
I deployed the second curtain (slow synchro) Flash setting to capture the image at the back of the train, or else, the entire train would have been just a blur and you would not be able to see anything besides traces and trails of lines and light. I set the intensity of flash to the maximum since the train was significantly far from where I was, but it was noted that the flash power was rather inadequate. Also note that the timing was very tricky, since the flash was second curtain, which means only being fired after the 20 seconds exposure.

It was quite late at night already, and it was ideal for me since at that time not that many people would flock the station, hence less distractions and eyes on me while I did my thing with Ollie. But doing it late at night also means that the train passes by less frequently, at every 15 minutes-30 minutes interval. If I did not get the shot right, I would have to wait possibly more than 15 minutes for the next train !! Estimation on the time needed to capture the entire trail was rather tricky too, it took me 2 trials before deciding on the 20 seconds exposure, and getting the second curtain flash fired just as the back of the train stopped there. 2seconds too soon would have missed the shot entirely !!

6) Two Trains
I guess not many of you have noticed this, but the shot was composed of two trains passing by on opposite directions. One was departing, leaving a trail of front lights as the train on my side was just arriving.

So do you still think the shot was simple?

Nevertheless I was not entirely happy with the photo, it did feel like something was missing. If I have had an external flash, I would have had more reach and I could fire it at will during the slow shutter capture, probably adding people into the picture would produce a more dramatic result. All in all, it took me more than an hour to just come out with this one picture that I was satisfied, and I was not insane enough to wait for another opportunity of two trains passing by again.

Or do you guys think I was still any sane after all this?


  1. i think i know when u took this pic

  2. Too much technical data till I couldn't comprehend.

  3. hey jasonmumbles,
    yeah, right !!