Photography at the Amtrak Station
by Nathan Waters
IMG_7744Model: Emily H. Location: Lakeland FL Amtrak Station As many of you know, I am a major fan of shooting at the railroads. Its such a rush to have a model that is great to work with, follows direction, and will work their butts off to get the shot. The amazing thing about shooting at a Railroad station, is that I get more than just one great shot which makes it super hard to choose from!
Downtown Lakeland is known to local photographers as one of the prime key places to do photo-shoots in the area. Rather its at Lake Mirror, Lake Morton, in one of the alleys, the stairwells, or even in the park downtown, the area has such an artistic and cinematic feel!
To start, I work my models and break them in with me, getting to know them and warming them up to me and my style of shooting. Every model must be comfortable with you, your style of shooting, and understand communication well. It is vital to having a great shoot if you decide to do something as intense and breathtaking as a passing train shoot. For one, its a little dangerous, as we’re working with a live operational station and track, with a train coming through every 10-30 minutes. Trains that come through are either passenger, or freight.
As I mentioned before, communication and comfortability with your model is key. You must work harmoniously and be able to read each other to anticipate what each other wants and how each other’s mind works. This harmony must be present in the short time that you will have just before the train approaches. Its very mental and physical. The train will be noisy and loud, so you will have to scream, shout and holler instruction to your model and she will have to be able to hear you and move with a flow and rhythm.
I recommend bringing a liability release or having it stated in your contract before you shoot . This lets your model know that she is there at her own risk and that you as the photographer will do what you must to protect any such injury or even potential death. Its not likely, but if the model falls or slips or something happens, you will not and cannot be held reliable. Also, I just thought of a new line for my release form that is a line for an “Emergency Contact.” So just in case, you will have a person to contact should something happen.
So, now that that is out of the way, we can continue talking about the shoot and how to prepare. You will need to ask the model if she will be doing her hair and makeup. If she does not plan on doing it, you can offer her an option to pay for a professional to come in. Most cosmetologists or mua’s (make-up artists) and hair stylists will offer you a discount rate if you allow them to use the photos for their portfolio. You should never do this for free. This is an investment for you, for them, and should also be for the model. I mean, you spent how much money for your equipment and transportation to get there and the insurance and fees of your equipment and also website hosting… plus the costs that the contracted work has? If you all have to pay, why should the model get anything for free? Now if you have a beautician or mua that needs some work done for their portfolio building, then contact one and offer TFP (Trade for Prints) which can be either actual prints, or a watermarked low to medium resolution copy on disk to prevent them from making large prints and/or selling them themselves.
IMG_6386Model: Ariana D. Location: Lakeland FL Amtrak Station The wardrobe will need to be something full and dramatic that when wind hits it, it can flow freely (just not too long since it is a passing train and could get caught). Also, longer hair is a plus when shooting models for this location. It brings life into the frame. Make sure that when you are working with your model, that you let them pose naturally and not all tensed up. The camera doesn’t lie and will show if you are making those tense poses and staging your model. The more lose and comfortable your model is, the better the shots will turn out. I recommend shooting in a “candid” style but at the same time, letting your model look straight into the camera with expression and glares, emotion, and passion. These looks will pull in greatly to the camera and make your shoot more editorial. Also, don’t forget that if your model has knees, they have to have feet., So structure your composition very well and allow room in your frame to edit and crop if you get that one shot that makes it all. The Rule of 3rds is very important if you want to make for a good framing. Remember headroom, lead-room, and foot room are key components in your framing of the model. This is a train shoot; so don’t forget to have the train and parts of the station in the shot. People often crop out the train and the background which totally self-terminates upon its own purpose. The purpose of photography in that of itself is to TELL A STORY!!! So tell it! This means using all the fundamentals of photography and making sure that those key elements are in the frame.
If you’re going to shoot at the Lakeland Amtrak, then do not let the model step over the safety IMG_7372-2Kia Kyser-Graduation Shoot, Magnolia Graduation 2013- HS line. That line is there for safety; thats why its called a “safety line.” The train will be passing at at least 32 knots (45 mph). So its a good idea to let the model know way before they are ever put in makeup what NOT to do and where to not stand for their protection and yours. This is also again why you must make them sign a release form WAY before you both ever take the first shot or setup. This way, if by some unfortunate event they are hurt, they cannot hold you liable and they understand any risks or stunts are by their own action and their choice. Also, this means not sticking their arm out too far and being far enough away from the passing train that nothing she is wearing to get caught in the tracks or onto the train. Basically just think safe and use your common-sense. If you don’t have any, then you should not be doing anything that could put another person in danger and you should definitely consider a different career.
As far as your shutter speed and f-stop, Make sure that you have a fast lens with a quick frame-rate such as at-least 5 fps (frames per second). In most of my shoots at the railroad tracks, i use all natural light and reflectors. For this reason alone, a fast lens with at wide angle with zoom capability is preferable. If you have a 70-200mm IS, then even better because of the amazing depth of field that you will get with that lens. The point is to have the shutter at a rate that will capture motion (i.e. the photo to the left), but not freeze it. You should also adjust your aperture for variations to keep the model/subject from being out of focus (this is also why you need a high frame rate camera). The best time of day to shoot that any photographer will tell you is "Magic Hour". This is also known as "Golden Hour" which is when the colors of the sky are changing constantly do to the sun rising and/or setting over/underneath the vertical horizon. Its also cooler, which means your clients aren't sweating and getting smelly and sticky. Magic Hour is about an hour before sunrise/sunset to an hour after. There is still enough light out up to an hour after the sun sets or an hour before sunrise to get some amazing photos! So DO NOT pass up on this!
Each model has their own fit of style. Use your head and study them in photos before the shoot. Its often good just to have a test shoot with that model as an ice-breaker, so that they are used to you as I mentioned earlier. Being comfortable with each other and a chemistry is a very important key to making amazing photos. It helps with communication and stress if you can communicate well.
IMG_60910 So here you are! These are some tips I have for you that you can use with any photoshoot and the preparation.. Make sure your batteries are charged, you have at-least two high-speed cards (Class 10; 8 Gb or higher; 20mb/s or higher) in case one doesn’t work. If you shoot in RAW, then a much higher speed is recommended as RAW is much higher data files and takes longer to capture all the data onto 4957245_sa the card. Remember to adjust your white balance, and last but not least, don’t forget to remove your lens cap. It might sound silly but the most professional photographers and videographers forget to do this. It doesn’t make them bad, just human.
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