Gray’s Anatomy – It’s Better By Train – By Richard Gray

It’s Friday again so that means it’s time for Richard Gray’s Gray’s Anatomy Column. This weeks’ article is very timely, Richard discusses his recent trip up to Derby to visit the Format Photography Festival. Richard travelled via train and discusses photo opportunities along the way. I was planning on driving up there myself on Monday, but having read this and being very aware of the UK’s current worsening weather conditions, I might just change my mind…Over to your Richard (foreword by Joanne Carter).



“I took my wife out for a driving lesson one late Sunday afternoon a while back. As we were doing a three-point turn on a deserted Ealing Common, she put her foot on the wrong pedal (as an automatic car, it was a 50-50 call and I wasn’t a very good driving instructor) and drove the car into a tree (and it ended up being complete junk). It was a write-off. Though I didn’t mind too much. “I’ll be dining off this one for years”, I laughed (I didn’t think I’d be blogging about it too). I bought a Network Southeast card instead of a replacement car and as a result we’ve been using the trains quite a lot.

I get a schoolboy thrill whenever I get on a train. It feels like I’m going on a sort of adventure and as an ex-driver it’s great to just sit back and let someone else do the driving. Part of the thrill these days is the prospect of getting some good photos through the window. For many reasons, sitting on a train is fantastic for taking photos. A large part of getting an interesting photo, is finding an interesting perspective and an interesting subject. A seat on a train is a rare perspective on an ever-changing subject. As trains leave London, often you’re high up and see down onto streets or into people’s houses; as you pass through the countryside, you see huge expansive landscapes; as you go through industrial estates, you see decaying factories and strange machinery. There’s a feast for Cartier-Bressonian lovers of shapes and geometry. Chimney stacks make triangles with overhead cables, craggy trees stand stark against rolling hills, Victorian tunnel arches flash by. And all the scenes have those receding lines that we all love. If you want a bit of weird in your photos, there are reflections and blemishes on the windows that you can play with. And if you’re a people person, take a stroll to the buffet car where you can get some sneaky face shots as you pretend to listen to your voicemail, or if you’re lucky someone interesting will get on at Leicester and sit right in front of you. And taking photos on a train tests one of the key skills of any type of photography: capturing the moment. If you haven’t got your app open and ready to fire when the train passes a distant field of tiny sheep, you’ll miss it.

So if your wife writes off your car, look on the bright side. You’ll have an interesting story to tell and – since driving a car and shooting isn’t very advisable – you might get a few interesting photos”.




They got on at Leicester

©Richard Gray


Richard's mobile photography has been exhibited around the world and published in various magazines and on many websites. He launched the world's first live course in iPhone photography in early 2012 with Kensington and Chelsea College. He has given workshops with The Photographers' Gallery and British Journal of Photography. Sport England recently commissioned him to cover various of its Sportivate initiatives with the iPhone. A keen observer of this new photographic genre, his writing has been widely published (most notably in The Guardian) and he writes a blog (iphoggy-bloggy). With a big camera, he specialises in music photography ( and syndicates to Press Association (with both big and small cameras).


  • Carlos

    Great story Sr Richard,

    The buses here are not very full. Thought it would be a great idea to do a photo bus. Ride around in a bus with students taking pix out the windows. I will try it myself first. With the iPad . Thanks for the inspiration and have a great weekend!