How I Got the Shot: Railroad Tracks, Lake Clear

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Hot Rails, near Lake Clear, Franklin County

Exposure Data:
Exposure: 1/4 sec, f/16, ISO 100
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 80-200mm lens set at 200mm.

Aiming for my imagery to be somewhat distinctive, I generally avoid shooting “commonplace,” maybe overdone, subject matter, but the early-morning light on these railroad tracks was too striking to pass up. The classic way to shoot this scene is with a wide-angle lens, with the tracks leading symmetrically into the distance, but I decided to use a telephoto, on a tripod and down low, and in so doing found some wonderful details that coalesced into a special image. Note all the colors: the golden light along the entire length of rails. They look nearly white hot, as if just extruded from a blast furnace. In contrast to the tracks, moss growing on the railroad ties is blue in shadow. And note the alternating blues and golds of the ties; they glow as if lit from below. Green forest encroaches from the sides, and farther down the corridor there’s more golden light and soft blues, which imply distance. 

From my shaded vantage point the glowing rails really stand out. I purposely shot from a curve in the tracks, positioning myself for an asymmetrical, dynamic composition; the right rail comes from the corner of the frame, while the left is above its corner. By using a long lens I compressed perspective, allowing the rails to dominate the foreground. Interestingly, they ripple into the distance. I was so close to the rails that, even shooting at a small aperture, F/16, the lens couldn’t hold focus all the way into the background. That’s fine; the softening accentuates the feeling of distance.

The low-angled light, the colors and perspective all helped elevate what could have been a commonplace scene into one uncommonly beautiful.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations at conferences, camera clubs, and other events. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute (API). He will lead his annual night photography workshop July 23rd-27th in Inlet and will help lead the Weekend with Adirondack Life Magazine workshop and two other fall workshops. For details on all API workshops, see For more on Mark’s work, visit

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