Digital Landscape Photography from a Moving Vehicle: Forget the Tripod Unless Needed

Google Street view pictures are taken from moving vehicles which means that anyone with a decent camera (who is not the driver!) should at least be able to attempt  the same thing.  Are such photographs worth taking as landscapes for  your own personal image collection? The answer to that question is yes, provided you use a high enough shutter speed. I recently planned such a shot 1 week in advance. I knew that I would be on a bus travelling  east along the A2 past the ‘Parc Natural de la Muntanya de Monserrat’ in Catalonia, Northern Spain.  (See the Google Street view image here.)

I  deliberately sat on the left side of the bus and waited till the bus was in such a position that I could get the  sky as blue as possible (i.e. as far away from the sun  in an angular direction as was achievable) and then took the shot.  I  used a less than optimum 1000 ISO signal amplification so that I could  freeze the scene at 1/1250 sec whilst using an aperture of F9. (Not  the ideal settings given my circumstances!).  At the best moment a car also got in the way. Nevertheless the  final result worked well enough for my  purpose, which was merely to capture a view of a very memorable and unusual landscape.

Monserrat Mountain Northen Spain

Monserrat Mountain Northern Spain after processing.  The original picture taken through the bus window is shown below.

Monserrat Mountain Northen Spain before processing

The car was removed by cloning in Photoshop.  I just extended the tree trunks downward by cloning and extended the long grass and ground by cloning from the left of the picture. This only took a few minutes.

On the rest of the trip I took  other images for which I was more careful to push the shutter speed by opening up the lens aperture more.  I therefore deliberately chose scenes with no close foreground that would be out of focus with a large aperture.

Village Northern Spain

A landscape picture of a Spanish village shot  through the window of a  moving bus.

The image above  was captured  with the focal length of the zoom lens set to 59 mm (camera settings: 400 ISO, F 2.8  and 1/3,200 sec.) Various Photoshop tricks were used to make the image more pleasing. Colour and contrast were enhanced at RAW conversion. Some of the sky and foreground were cropped out as  there was too much in  the original image. I duplicated the image onto an additional layer and set the blend mode to ‘Soft Light’ and blurred it with a Gaussian function.  The shadow regions  at the base of the trees hidden beneath the leaf canopy were then too dark. I painted  some lightness over these areas using a levels layer and white brush on a black mask.    Despite the way the picture was taken it would make a large print, even although it was taken at about 50 miles per hour ! :-)

I come across photographers  who do the exact opposite and pin their camera unnecessarily to a tripod even in  strong light. On occasions and for some purposes tripods are essential.  (I hate using tripods although I own 2 of them and also have a monopod.) Why constrain yourself unless forced to do so under low lighting levels? Mistakenly in my opinion, some photographers actually feel using a tripod is the only way to take a ‘serious’ landscape picture.  I once came across a landscape photography class on a beautiful bright  late autumn day  in the English Lake District led by a prominent English landscape photographer. I fired off a few shots and asked a women  from his class the why she was not taking any pictures although her camera was  on a tripod. She said the teacher had told her to wait for inspiration. If I had been her teacher I would have told her to  do the exact opposite.. …move around! Sample the scene. In fact I did just that in the Lake District shots below and did not use a tripod because the light was ‘good’.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Catlerigg neolithic stone circle is located in a beautiful spot near Keswick, Cumbria. Well known landscape photographers take landscape class groups there. Many of these photographers use tripods even in conditions like that shown above. Probably because their teacher told them to do so.

Tarn Lake District England

The image above is of Watendlath, Cumbria shown above is one of my favourite spots in the Lakes.

Trees in Sunshine Lake District England

Trees in sunshine.  There was no need for a tripod although the final effect was helped by post processing.

Cottage near Skidaw

Th composite image above is composed of  2 horizontally taken images. Some encroaching branches on the right were removed in the final picture.

2 Fishermen Watendlath

This image of 2 fishermen was a very quickly taken picture, which for me was well worth working on.

More of the landscapes I have taken (without a tripod)  in the Lake District of  England are shown  here.