As a family, we frequently find ourselves on the road. Our boys are very rambunctious, and every weekend involves at least one prolonged car trip to a fun destination.
During those, I am usually a passenger, free to gape outside the window, absorbing my surroundings. When I first read Elle Walker’s drive-by photography tutorial here on CM blog, I was amazed at how much she’s been able to capture without leaving her car. This was the push that I needed to see what surrounds me with a new set of eyes. Being on the road provides many great angles and new perspectives. I’d like to share my drive-by images, with tips I learned along the way that helped me capture them.
Please drive safely and only do this when you are a passenger!
1. Slow down your shutter speed to capture movement.
Closing your aperture will help you create better focus and, of course, will be necessary for daytime shooting at such low shutter speeds. During this rainy drive, I loved seeing the leading lines on the wet road. This was captured at an aperture of f/16 and shutter speed 1/10 second. I rested my camera on the dashboard to stabilize it and minimize the camera shake. Keep in mind that at smaller apertures, every piece of dirt and raindrop on the windshield, and every fleck of dust on your camera’s sensor, will be visible on the image – plan to spend some time in post-processing, looking at your image at 1:1 magnification and cleaning it up.
2. Being on an elevated highway will give you one-of-a-kind vantage point.
Keep your eyes open for interesting elements. If it’s a drive you take frequently and you missed an opportunity to capture something, taking mental (or actual) notes helps to keep you prepared the next time. This photo was taken along the stretch of I-95 that we drive every other week when we visit my in-laws. I always found those colorful houses visually interesting, and was ready to capture them on this bright sunny day.
3. Using a zoom lens will help you to rapidly change your perspective.
While I mostly shoot prime lenses, I do own a 24-105mm f/4L lens that lends itself beautifully as a very versatile lens for drive-by photography. These two photos were shot within minutes of each other, each capturing a different aspect of the surrounding landscape (while my husband was driving at 65mph).
4. Don’t overexpose the sky.
In landscape photography, the sky frequently will be a big component of an image, and one of your most expressive subjects. While driving, scenery changes quickly, and you will frequently notice only compositional elements on the ground and not the sky. Look for a busy sky with lots of clouds to help you tell your story. Expose to preserve the sky, making sure no elements were lost. In post-processing, use the clarity slider in Lightroom and Photoshop’s high pass filter to enhance the texture.
5. Use a creative lens to make unusual images.
As you’ve probably guessed by the tell-tell blur, many of the images above, too, were shot with a Lensbaby lens, with either the sweet 35 or Edge 80 optics.
Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 optic
Lensbaby Coposer Pro with Edge 80 optic
Nina Mingioni, Pennsylvania
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Nina is a hobbyist photographer who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She loves many genres, including street, urban, macro, and nature photography, and, of course, capturing the details in lives of her two boys. She shoots mostly prime lenses, but never leaves her house without one of her Lensbaby lenses. In imagery, she is drawn to lines, patterns, details, textures, and light – and capturing the geometry, order, and beauty these elements bring into the chaos of life.