You may wonder why most of the photos on this page
are "real" locomotives. The reason is, if you know
what a photo looks like of a real locomotive then
you will have a better chance of making a photo of a
G-Scale locomotive look much the same.
you look at photos in magazines or at video on say
"YouTube" you will see photographs and videos
of Garden Railways and they almost always have one
thing in common.
camera angle is low down, as if at your eye level
above the level of the track, or even below
sometimes called "the worm's eye shot".
Well this camera angle gives the same view as if you
had been standing taking a photo beside the track of
a full sized locomotives and trains, thus adding to
effect of realism in your photo or video.
The photo is of a full sized loco taken at track
side level on the Buckfastleigh to Totnes line.
are times when a following shot as if in a
helicopter is dramatic but rarely better than the
low level shot. If you are using a video camera the best
advice is use it like a still camera and follow the
subject's movement rather than moving the camera all
over the place. With that in mind if a video camera
is not mentioned below then use is like a still
photo, whilst it is of a full sized loco, is
actually taken from way above unit and looks more
like a shot of a model loco standing in a station.
It does not have the impact of a lower eye level
for a moment the camera, still or video, and think
that it is a dry but cold day and you are wishing to
capture the "great" picture of your live steam
or electric locomotive, then the most
important item to have with you is something to put
down on the ground so that you can lay flat on the
ground. Make sure it is not just any old piece of
plastic sheeting as it will be very cold to the
touch! A Sleeping bag on top of a ground sheet is
what you need to be the most comfortable.
more expensive camera does not necessarily mean a
better shot but obviously a better camera which
allows you to use photographic techniques, to the
full, does result in stunning photos. You must
expect to take many photos at different setting to,
may be, arrive at the shot you really wanted to
do not be put off if you do not have a digital
single lens reflex camera (DSLR) as the simple point
and shoot camera can give you good results but take
your time experimenting with all available settings.
photo was taken at Totnes Littlehempton Station as
low down as possible. Had this been a G-Scale loco
it would have necessitated lying flat on the ground
as mentioned above!
next decision is do you want to take a shot of the
locomotive stationary or moving. Both are correct
but it all depends upon what photo you are wanting.
There will not be the characteristic flowing of
steam from the chimney back over the engine if a
live steam loco is not moving. The photo shows a full sized loco at speed
with the lovely plume of steam leaving the chimney.
is always best to use a tripod but with the DSLR
camera some now have "vibration reduction" lens that
reduce camera shake. Pan with the subject, whilst
pressing the shutter release, if you are taking a
shot of a moving locomotive and you can
achieve the photo, which to some is most pleasing,
with foreground and background blurred due to camera
movement and the subject still.
a photo is not as easy to achieve with a compact
digital camera as with the DSLR. With the DSLR there
is negligible delay between the shutter release
being pressed and the picture being taken and
entered into the camera's memory.
photo is of the indoor "00" railway track at
Buckfastleigh, the loco is moving so the camera was
panned with the movement resulting in the blurring
of foreground and back ground.
is nothing wrong in taking at least some shots with
the loco stationary and this is especially true when
using a compact digital camera.
the loco stationary also means that the camera can
be mounted on a tripod and foreground - subject -
and background will not be blurred but as shown here
with careful use of the depth of field the
foreground and back ground are mostly out of focus
making the loco the important item in the photo.
DSLR such as the Nikon D80 has another nice feature
in that you can take a succession of photos just by
holding down the shutter release button. This
combined with panning the camera with the moving
loco can achieve great results.
shot are as above but the night time shot will mean
even more experimentation. Whether you have a
compact camera or DSLR. To achieve that natural
looking picture you must NOT use the built in flash
... or any flash for that matter unless you are
setting up a studio like location but such a set up
is far outside the scope of this piece.
the, top right, picture of the "00" track at
Buckfastleigh the interior light of the diesel shows
nicely, foreground and background blurred, loco in
focus and still, showing that the camera was being
panned at the speed of the loco when the shutter
release was pressed.
shots are all about embracing the feel for the
environment and using available light. Now this does
not mean a completely black night shot as there must
be some light for the camera to record an image. The
light can be from moon light, street / station
lights . So first take some shots with just the
existing light using the capabilities of your camera
to the full.
night shots you have seen taken in a movie / TV film
are specially contrived by the lighting crew who
have been there for a long time setting the lighting
for the prefect shot.
there is nothing wrong in you copying those ideas of
using additional lights. Simple lights such as those
used with protection for the bulb are quite
sufficient for first your efforts and then build on
night shot of the building and loco allows the
lights of the building to illuminate the
general area and is not "over lit" with lights
outside. You will need to achieve a balance between
the outside ambient light and that coming out from
shots for the Video camera
that the video camera can do that the still cannot
and that is record a trip on your track. Whether the
camera is facing forwards or backwards make sure it
will be safe even if the train has a crash. Keep the
camera located as near to the track as possible, and
this helps with preventing the truck carrying the
camera from turning over and does give you the shot
as if it were on board a real train.
to consider any tunnels, bridges or track side
furniture such as signals so that the camera does
not smash into them and stop your fun before it has
Here is a shot taken from a full sized train whilst
stationary waiting at signals. Such a photo could be
taken on your railway with a camera on a suitable
you have a still compact or digital single reflex
camera or a video camera make sure you will be
comfortable taking the photos, enjoy the task and if
the results are not as you want the first time make
some notes and then try to improve the next time.
Always consider your safety whilst
taking your photos especially when using
additional lighting and trailing cables, we
cannot be responsible for your accidents.
the best photo you can take is like this one, taken
from the foot bridge at Buckfastleigh Station, be
satisfied as the steam makes for a very atmospheric
that is enough for the time being but of course is
not the end of the topic as there is so much more to
consider especially for the owner of a DSLR but to
go on would probably bore most readers !!!
of the locos on this web page were taken on the South
Devon Railway ...
animation is made up of 23 separate photos assembled
at low resolution to show all the photos taken
whilst panning and then you could decide which is
the shot you like most.
Nikon D80 with VR 18-200m lens, shooting mode -
continuous 3 frames per second.