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Touring by bus, Part 2 (09/28/2005)
By Tom Hirsch

by Tom Hirsch

The fundamental law of bus travel is OBEY TIME SCHEDULES. At each stop, you'll either be given the exact time that the bus will leave, or the amount of time you'll have for sightseeing. Make a note of the time you're to be back on the bus. Photographers are prone to losing track of time. Even when time is short, we look for the best composition or lighting direction for a shot, or we'll spend too much time at one location and have to rush to see and photograph everything else on the assumption that we'll never return to the area.

Rule Number Two: Listen to the tour guide. Information that he or she provides can give you valuable clues as to what subjects have the most significance or photographic appeal. It doesn't hurt to take notes on what the guide says, but if there are plaques describing the items of interest, these can also be photographed for future reference. Take your pictures, but don't talk or disturb others while the tour guide is making announcements or describing sights to the group.

Rule Number Three: Don't go far afield. By getting off the designated paths, it's easy to become preoccupied with something unexpected and lose track of time.

While on the road, there will be times when the scenery or some interesting event or situation along the highway will call for picture-taking from the moving bus. For these times there is a new set of rules. Some are safety factors, others relate to getting the best pictures possible under the circumstances.

On a bus trip, your driver is responsible for the safety of the passengers, himself or herself, the bus, other vehicles, and pedestrians. Under his or her control is an 18-1/2 ton, 40' long, 9' wide, 11-1/2' high vehicle carrying up to 150 gallons of gasoline. For safety reasons, there will be a few restrictions that the passengers will be under when the bus is in motion. Before boarding the bus for the first time, find out what they are.

Restrictions vary from driver to driver and tour line to tour line, so ask your driver for the specific rules on your bus. You'll probably be allowed to stand and move from one side of the bus to the other and up and down the aisles, but never beyond the white line at the front of the aisle.

If you have a choice of seats, select a window seat, about midway between the front and rear wheels for minimum vibration. Choose the shady side of the bus so you won't be shooting into the sun, and for best lighting direction. You might not be able to satisfy all these conditions, but do the best you can.

When shooting through a bus window, place the camera close to the window without touching it. If you hold the camera too far from the window, you'll pick up reflections and window dirt; if the camera touches the window, you'll get vibration.

Sometimes (usually?) the most beautiful scenery or interesting event takes place on the opposite side of the bus, and you must get a picture of it. On these occasions, get out of your seat, and, if there isn't a vacant seat you can slide into, lean across a seat back for your shots. Get as close to a window as possible, but don't try to lean in front of fellow passengers because you'll obstruct their view.

One more thing. Many autofocus cameras focus on window glass rather than through it. The result is that any pictures taken through glass will be out of focus. If your camera has an "infinity" lock, always use it when shooting through windows. 


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