A Meandering Train of Thought
By making creative use of camera shake while shooting, Sarang Naik makes dreamy and contemplative images of a railway route.
- Description: To create an abstract body of work on the Matheran toy train route.
- Duration: One day. I explored the entire length of the route starting from Matheran to Neral.
- Notes: I prefer my images to be in black and white. I think that colours are often distracting and take the focus away from the intended message.
The hill station of Matheran near Mumbai is my favourite photography haunt. I especially love exploring the toy train railway route. I am a big fan of a photographer named Chris Friel who makes surreal long exposure images using camera shake. Inspired by his work, I decided to shoot a series on the railway route using this technique.
I have a deep respect and love for abstract photography. It forces the viewer to get more involved with the image and make his or her own interpretations. When the usual elements that the mind relies on are removed, the thought process and the emotions behind the image become prominent. It feels to me like stripping off the flesh to reveal the soul within. I liken this series to the inner discourse and the wanderings of my own mind. My images, as such, tend to be a romantic and personal portrayal of the subject rather than a faithful reproduction of it. They need to have enough room for the imagination to run wild.
The camera was handheld while making all the images to allow me more freedom of movement. I used a small aperture setting (sometimes, even f/32) with the shutterspeed being anywhere from 1/40sec to 3.2sec. Getting a harmonious movement in the image was the hardest part. I experimented a lot with different shutterspeeds and changed the degree and intensity of the movements to try and hit a sweet spot. It was quite unpredictable and I was often surprised by the results. I realised that specular highlights are my best friends and that is the reason why the rails work so well as the subject—they form sharp and distinct shapes in the final image. The same goes for the milestones, the grass and the train. To make the abstract images work, I needed to keep a discernible hint of the subject for the viewer’s mind to hang on to. This series taught me a lot about the importance of having strong compositions and helped me become a much better black and white photographer.
My Equipment For this series I used the Canon EOS 500D with a Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro lens. I didn’t use a tripod but if you want to shoot longer exposures then use one to keep some part of the images sharp.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Better Photography.
How To Make Unique Images With Camera Shake
- Try Different Types of Movements: Use a tripod and pan the camera in one direction. You could even forgo the tripod and just randomly jiggle the camera around. Find out which movements work well under which conditions.
- Take a Lot of Pictures: Since there is quite a bit of uncertainty involved, you will have to shoot several images to get one that works. Also think before you delete any images as recreating them is next to impossible.
- Use Neutral Density Filters: ND filters will increase the exposure time of the images and help you get more abstract results when shooting in daylight.
You can find more of Sarang’s work on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SarangNaikPhotography