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6 Tips to Photograph Landscapes and Scenery from a Car

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Tips to Photograph Landscapes and Scenery from a Car

I love to travel…in fact my whole family loves to travel. And because we typically travel together, we are really big into road trips. I almost prefer road travel to air travel. I love the freedom of seeing the countryside passing by. I am not much of a driver, so I love being the passenger, navigator, and photographer. This gives me the freedom to photograph landscapes and passing scenery as we drive to our destination. For me, these travel pictures help solidify the experience, particularly for my kids who are just as excited and overjoyed at road trips.

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As a photographer, I have learnt a few tricks for drive by travel photography as we spend countless hours in the car getting to our next adventure. Disclaimer: these are my personal experiences based on my time spent on the road.  

1) Equipment

Fast cameras, like dSLRs, work best for car/drive by photography. DSLRs allow you to manually adjust the settings like shutter speed, aperture, ISO are better so you can actually get the results you envision before you press the shutter. If you have a point and shoot camera, use the motion setting (the one that looks like a person running). It compensates for some for the car movement and motion blur if you want to get a crisp image. In terms of lens, I personally prefer the wide angle lens. I am a Canon user and typically use the 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (I use the older version I) when I am in the car. This is a versatile lens as I can adjust the zoom depending on the scenery I want to photograph. My other go-to lens is the 50mm f/1.2L USM. You can certainly get great results from other wide angle, standard, and telephoto lenses, as long as they focus fast and allow for enough light.

2) Safety

Please don’t drive and take pictures, it is very dangerous and not worth the risk. If you are the driver, hand the camera off to your passenger, give them a quick 10 minute tutorial and trust them to take images from their point of view…you might be pleasantly surprised at the results. At no time, should you put yourself and your car mates in danger in trying to get a shot. This is especially important when you are on highways and expressways where there is a lot of fast moving traffic. Never drive and try to photograph at the same time – Just don’t do it….

3) Traditional “Drive by” photography shots

Most commonly, car photography involves taking images from the passenger side window. This is perhaps one of the most common images we see when we think about “drive by” or “car photography”. At times they can be blurry if your hand is unsteady or the car is moving quickly or a combination of the two. Perhaps that is just the look you are going for. But personally I prefer clean crisp images. So I really bump up my shutter speed (generally in the 2000+ and have a high aperture value (f7+). I want to get as much of the image as I can in focus. Luckily, if the sun is shining brightly, I can bring down the ISO so I get exactly what I want – a clean, crisp image. I don’t use any special equipment to steady my camera – I tuck my arms close to my body and that provides me the stability I need. The one exception is the fog image down below – I had a really slow shutter speed because I wanted to capture the fog through the car headlights. In this case motion blur was completely acceptable and added to the mood of the image.

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4) Change your perspective

Think out the box at times. Switch things around – use the front window, side view mirror or even take a picture from the back window. If you get a bit of the car in the image, all the better. It give a perspective of where you are. As always, please practice safety when the vehicle is moving and make sure you and your camera don’t get in the way of the driver.

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5) Composition

Rule of thirds lends itself best to drive by photography. You can isolate the subject as well as get the environment when you follow this rule. I tend to use this a lot.

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6) Embrace the environment

The great thing about a road trip is experiencing the changing scenery and the outside environment. Embrace it and make it a part of your images. I love sun flare. I find car windows sometimes act as a natural reflector, bouncing the light from the sun and lens back onto the window in odd angles. It gives a really cool effect to your images that can be enhances with some post processing. Also changing weather patterns add an element of mystery and drama to images – incorporate these in your images.

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I hope this inspires you to try your hand at drive by photography. Make it a part of your journey to help tell the complete story of your next adventure!

Karthika Gupta, guest blogger for this article is a Lifestyle, Wedding and Travel Photographer based in the Chicagoland area. You can see more of her work on her website Memorable Jaunts and follow her on her Memorable Jaunts Facebook page.

 

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No Comments

  1. Brennan on May 29, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Awesome article with SO many great tips I can’t wait to try!

  2. Stan on May 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Great post!I have to add that I spent 6 months in Africa, and many of my photos were taken out the window of my vehicle.My strategy was similar to yours-Depending on the light (I got lucky and usually got good light), I shot between ISO 200-1600. But I’d rather a little noise, than miss the shot!I used a 24-105 Canon IS lens for the flexibility in zoom.I used f5.6 mostly for the extra light, and shot no slower than 1/1000 (mostly 1/1250 or higher). If we were moving slower (like in a town), I’d drop the ISO first, then the shutter speed.Unless something was close to the vehicle, this shutter speed worked fine, and most people can’t tell my photos were taken at 60kph!

  3. Stan on May 30, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Panning is also an excellent way to drop the ISO and shutter speed and capture an object along the road… and lots of practice on a long trip!

  4. shobha on May 30, 2013 at 11:56 am

    amazing article. awesome pictures. extremely helpful.with the.details

  5. Gretchen on May 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I love doing this, glad to know someone else does too. Thanks for all the tips,can’t wait to try them. My pictures sure don’t look like yours.

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