Friday, September 16, 2011

The Art of Drive-by Shooting (or Photography out the Window)

Photo I took out the car window in Las Vegas

The first time I shot a photo out of the car window I was stopped at an intersection on the Strip in Las Vegas.  I was on a vacation weekend with college friends, and I framed a shot of the Flamingo lit up in all of its nighttime glory, and snapped the shot before the light changed (no, I wasn't driving!)  I was really happy with the results.  I didn't know at the time that my future would hold many photographs-out-of-car-windows experiences.

Of course, there are serious challenges with this type of photography.  Distance, speed, semi-trucks that cross your path right when you snap, and glare off of windows are just a few.  The advantages are you can capture a moment, a scene, a certain light without having to stop.  The most difficult shots I have taken involved a manual Pentax SLR camera and high speeds across Kansas and Nebraska.

Nebraska farm from the freeway

My husband (the artist), would say "Get a shot of that building (cloud, hay bale, cow, etc.) as we drove by, and I would focus, adjust the aperture, and snap, all before we passed the scene at freeway speeds.  My kids would yell from the backseat if a semi-truck was passing us or if we were going to pass a road sign, so hopefully those items would not appear in the frame.  Getting to be fast with the manual camera was a huge advantage when I began shooting sports events (kids sports and Olympic events we attended), so you can also use "drive-by shooting" to upgrade your photography skills.

Shoot from inside the car if it is raining, or is obviously unsafe for you to be out of the vehicle.

Part of the dashboard is in this shot from Yellowstone...I was NOT getting out with this guy.

Bear Lake - out the window in a rainstorm

Of course, I could have made more adjustments on this picture in photoshop, but I wanted to give you an idea that you capture more of a moment than the world's greatest photo.  This was a cloudy, rainy, day, and I was willing to let the foreground remain dark to show off the lake and clouds.

Often shots out the window are blurred, either from the motion of the car, or, in this case, the motion of the animal.  They may not make my photo albums, but the shot still triggers a memory!

Moving buffalo - he's blurred, and you can see the reflection off the glass in the shot.

Sometimes you take a shot out of the window and it is just too far away.  I try and have my larger lens available, but even then it isn't always enough.  So, there are times when you just have to stop the car and get out to get the shot.  If you are an artist or know one, you are familiar with the concept of shooting scrap for future painting reference.  Many of the shots I take could end up being used in a painting.  Sometimes scrap from multiple photos gets referenced in just one piece of art:  a sky from one photo, a barn from another.

These haybales were just too small from the car window.

My husband was much happier with this photo he got after parking the car.

Sometimes photos turn out surprisingly well, even from a moving vehicle. In this shot, the foreground is blurred, but I wanted to capture the low-hanging clouds on this rainy day.

Capturing the low hanging clouds was the objective of this car shot.

I like the feel of this through-the-windshield-shot.

Many shots out the window are not successful, or only mildly so.  But that is part of the challenge and part of the fun!

Leaving Grand Canyon in a rainstorm.  My husband wanted me to shoot the clouds in this photo.  Note the car antenna in the shot.

Sometimes you just get a blur.

Sometimes I shoot out of the car for convenience.  In the case of this barn picture, it was raining, and I was happy to roll down the window and get the shot before too much rain blew in the van.

Barn picture taken from the car.

Sometimes it works out pretty well!

The lighting was great when we drove through southern Utah.

Trestle outside of Eureka, Utah

Of course, in this digital age, the camera can compensate for an awful lot all by itself, so that has, in some respects, made my job easier.  Only shoot while the car is moving if you are the PASSENGER.  If you are driving, pull over and stop to get the shot.  You never know what you will see as you drive, so keep your camera at the ready, and happy shooting!

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