Photographing Landscapes Through a Train Window Across Europe

Trainviews is a little project I did during my train trip on the Connecting Europe Express in September 2021. This train brought me all the way from Lisbon to Bratislava while visiting a different city every day in just 9 days’ time.

The project Trainviews came to my mind a few days into the trip. As I was spending many hours in the train every day and I was often sitting in a coach that was half empty, I thought it was an interesting idea to basically just set up my tripod in the train pointing out of the window and trying to catch interesting scenery along the way. As we were crossing many different landscapes these 9 days on the train, I wanted to create a series showing the different sceneries.

A beautiful sunrise with mist in the countryside
A typical Italian landscapes with the Cyprus trees and a little church. Timing for this shot was spot on!
A little vineyard right next to the traintrack.
Using a slower shutter speed created a motion blur effect.
Rain in the alps in Austria. Fun fact: During my 9 days in the train this was the only time we saw some rain.
The North of Italy and Austria was the most beautiful part of rail I crossed during my trip with often spectacular mountain views from the window.
‘Teletubby’ hills with puffy clouds makes for such pleasing scenery.
Different kind of hills with typical Italian trees.
Sometimes we would arrive late evening. This was a long exposure shot of us arriving in a station.
A little group of Italian houses.

The goal of this series is to show the beauty along the railway in Europe. Train travel is fast, comfortable, and sustainable and the great thing is that you can do work along the way while enjoying the ‘trainviews.’

Technical difficulties while shooting this series:

Timing: This was the most difficult thing. As you can see in the photos I managed to get some objects right in the middle of the window. These were very difficult to ‘catch’ as the train was mostly moving quite fast. My timing for these photos needed to be perfect. I didn’t use ‘burst mode’ on the camera, as even then the timing could be slightly off. I simply waited for the perfect moment to press the shutter.

Shutter speed: To avoid blur in the photos (except for the ones where I wanted the blur for an artistic effect) I needed to use a super-fast shutter speed. In general, I would underexpose the images allowing me to use faster shutter speed. I also slightly bumped up the ISO to get an even faster shutter speed. The result was mostly images shot at a shutter speed of around 1/800 to 1/1000 of a second so the image was sharp.

Reflections: It was not always possible to shoot as reflections in the windows were sometimes too strong. In general, it was okay. I removed some annoying reflections in postprocessing in some of the images.

The setup I used was the Sony a7R IV full-frame mirrorless camera with the Sony 12-24mm GM wide-angle lens.

I hope you enjoyed these photographs!

P.S. This side project was done while on the train with the Connecting Europe Express to promote the 2021 EU Year of Rail. I wrote a separate article with lots of images on this trip over on my website.

About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.