Types of Transit Photos

I have two broad categorizations for the types of transit photos I tend to take.  These are “roster shots” and “artsier shots.”  I expect to use these terms on occasion here at The Travelogue, so I figured I should define them so everyone understands what I am talking about.  In an attempt to make the descriptions consistent and easy to understand, all the photos used as examples are of Gillig Advantage buses operated by TCAT in Ithaca, NY.

Roster Shots

An example of a 3/4 roster shot

Roster shots are not a time for creativity.  The point of a roster shot is pretty much to get a photograph of the vehicle, just the vehicle, and nothing else but the vehicle.  The most typical roster shot is the “3/4” roster shot, which is best defined as a photo showing as much of the vehicle as possible, usually from a slight angle of about 30 degrees to the side of the vehicle’s center line.  Typically, the vehicle won’t be in motion, and may even be parked in a yard at the time of the photo (in which case an effort needs to be made to have as few things as possible in the photo frame aside from the vehicle itself).  Sometimes these shots can be “wedge” shots taken from a kneeling position, but usually these are taken from a standing position.  Roster shots also do not have to be taken from a 30 degree angle; they can also be taken from head-on, the rear, or the side of the vehicle.  However, the ~30 degree angle is most common.  Roster shots are a great way to document how a vehicle looks and to make sure that a photo collection has a basic photo of every vehicle type in a given fleet, if all 7000+ photos on this website looked like the one above, you probably wouldn’t be here for very long.

Artsier/Artsy Shots

An example of an artsy shot

As the name implies, an artsy shot does have a creative bent to it.  Let’s look at the photo to the right as an example.  Yes, it is true you can see the entire front and left side of the bus like you would in a 3/4 roster shot.  But the bus is clearly moving as it is in the process of making a left turn to come closer to where I am standing.  Also, Cornell University’s iconic McGraw Tower is very visible in this photo.  If you’re already accustomed to associating the clock tower with Cornell and Ithaca, you can immediately place where this was taken.  Using the clocktower and other Cornell landmarks to add an artistic element to the photos of Ithaca’s buses can’t really be done for a 3/4 roster shot.  However, using surrounding buildings and landmarks does add a level of creativity to what is otherwise just a photo of a bus with the dual purpose of establishing where the photo was taken.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list!

Is it a 3/4 roster shot or not?

Lots of photos can fall between the two categories.  For example, many quick shots of a bus going down the street may share the elements of a 3/4 roster shot.  The photo above has many aspects of a 3/4 roster shot as described above, but I would place it in the creative and artsy category because I framed the photo to include the entire Schwartz Performing Arts Center entryway behind the bus.  I expect most of the photos I share here on The Travelogue to fall in to the artsier category, though like in this last example, expect to see plenty of 3/4 roster shot elements in those photos.

One Last Note

Friends who have traveled with me occasionally comment on the very deliberate “crouch” I sometimes adopt in order to get some photos.  This crouching or kneeling results in what is usually referred to as a wedge shot as a result of the angle of the subject of the photo.  In addition to creating a certain perspective that I like to experiment with on occasion, it also has the benefit of lowering one’s center of gravity slightly and sometimes makes it easier to hold the camera without moving it as much, which is extremely valuable in situations where a slow shutter speed is required (i.e. dark subway stations or night shots).