Susan Seubert rode the Rocky Mountaineer train, coursing through Canada and exploring excursions and sights along the way for Traveler magazine. Follow along as she shares glimpses into making incredible images in the Canadian landscape.
This was one of the most difficult shots to pull off because it relied on a bunch of things coming together at once. Before I left for the assignment, I did extensive online research to identify good places to photograph a great establishing shot of the train. I was looking for an “environmental portrait.”
I shared about 20–30 images on a Pinterest board with my editor so we could collaborate. The ensuing coordination was a challenge because, ultimately, many things beyond our control had to align: location, timing of the train, light, weather, and an accessible location from which to make the picture. Once we had made our choices for potential locations, we worked with Rocky Mountaineer staff to identify times when the train would pass. The time of day was critical, as sunrise was very early and sunset very late.
Another factor that came in to play was that when the Rocky Mountaineer doesn’t have passengers, it travels at a faster speed. The train was going about 40–60 kilometers an hour at the spot where I took this photo. Also in this location, just out of the frame on the left side, is a cement factory, so I was forced to make a vertical photo.
On the morning of the shoot, my fixer from the RM and I headed out at 5 a.m. to find the location. On the third try, we found it by the side of the road and up a steep embankment, about 25 meters from the road. Just as I was setting up a tripod and camera, I heard the roar of a train. Thinking it was the RM, I almost panicked because I wanted to have a polarizing filter on to cut the glare from the intense sun and control the spectral highlights on the river. Luckily, it was a freight train, so I had an opportunity to test shutter speed and exposure.
Once the real train arrived, I had exactly three seconds to get the shot. About five minutes after the freight train passed, the Rocky Mountaineer appeared, and I was ready. I managed to nail the shot because everything fell in to place.
Photo Tip: Research, research, research. Prior to leaving for any shoot, use any and all resources to prepare. Google is an indispensable tool for basic information like image searches and maps. When I get to the location, I use a smartphone app called Sun Seeker, which gives me the precise path of the sun in real time at the location using the phone’s GPS.
Photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a Canon EF24-105mm, f/4L USM lens.
Explore more pictures of the Rocky Mountaineer train.
See more photos by Susan Seubert on Instagram at @susanseubert.