April 16, 2018
I have been posting a great deal from my latest trip so I decided to mix things up a bit and focus on a local obsession of mine: CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) trains.
When I moved to Chicago, in 1999, I didn’t have a car so it was sink or swim learning the Chicago Transit network as quickly as possible. Of course, trudging to a 9 to 5’er to spend my day in a cublicle didn’t exactly give me a fond appreciation of the “chariot” carrying me to my slow and painful daily death. However, having grown up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, riding the SEPTA system maybe twice in my life, I admit, I was intrigued.
Fast forward to 2011, when I left my full time job to pursue my passion as a photographer.
Much of my work focuses on my home city so, as it such an integral part of our city, I spend a great deal of time photographing the CTA and with each photograph, my appreciation grows. (Fun fact about the CTA: it is the nation’s second largest public transport system boasting, on average, 1.6 million daily rides. When I say integral, I really mean it!)
My approach to shooting most of my subjects, including trains, isn’t straightforward. I want my work to provide people with a unique perspective on every day objects that they might not notice otherwise. In all the years of riding the trains to work, seeing them up close and at eye or street level, I never appreciated what a work of art they are, especially coupled with Chicago’s amazing architecture or colorful street art. Using specialty lenses like Lensbaby and playing with light, position and color, I hope to show others their true beauty.
I am often asked how I get my train photographs to look, “toy like.” The answer? Shoot from above. I have spent more time than I can tally in parking garages and on train overpasses to get myself above my subject.
When you find a sweet spot of focus, in this case on the train, and blur everything else around it, it creates a miniature or “toy” like effect. (For those of you in the Instagram Know, you have probably seen the Tilt Shift filter when editing photographs… same idea, just the real thing.) Specialty lenses, like Lensbaby, are made specifically for this type of shooting and are a great deal of fun to play with.
A few more tips on photographing trains, whether it’s public transportation or otherwise:
OK enough with the obvious “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out Mom Pointers…” lets get in to some real tips.
Photograping trains, especially moving ones, can be challenging and take practice but the possibilities are endless when you think outside the box and shoot from different perspectives.
My entire, ever growing, collection of Chicago train photography can be found here in my online gallery.
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