Images from a moving Train – Photo essay

Train travel as opposed to flying is a romantic journey, looking out of an aircraft window can offer great views, but from a train it is possible to feel a part of the landscape. Whilst the true romance of the ‘golden age of steam’ is not quite possible on electric or diesel locomotives it remains a far more intimate and involving form of transportation.

“The destination is the climax of an adventurous journey”

Grand central station at Marrakech, Morocco Copyright on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

The main train station at Marrakech

It is usually a much more sociable experience too, enabling the traveller to become immersed in the journey, to converse with fellow passengers and share the joys of the journey.

Marrakech to Fes and back

Moroccan barbecuing by the railside on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Al fresco dining Moroccan style

Taking the eight-hour plus journey from Marrakech to Fes was an easy decision, although driving over a few days was another option, in the end simplicity of rail travel seemed preferable.

Riding the rails in Morocco is relatively cheap and for this reason is also very popular; the early train was still full. A compartment feels even more intimate enabling a greater connection with travelling companions in this case a young pregnant woman, three mature women and a similarly aged man.

Adventurous kids in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Child’s play in Morocco

 Orange grove at the station in Fes, Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Oranges are everywhere

It is far too easy to just wear headphones, listen to music and sink into a private world, but despite my companions speaking a language beyond my comprehension I decided against this. It somehow seemed ignorant to do so and this was obviously appreciated as they all attempted to include me in their conversation, using some gesturing and signing we were able to converse. We also happily shared the contents of our various food ‘bags’, sandwiches, fruit and dried nuts.

The World through a window

Gazing the through the window, it was interesting to see the changing landscape. It was actually quite green, flat arable farmland interspersed with olive groves and fruit orchards, cattle, sheep and goats grazing at the very edge of the tracks.

Timber alongside the Moroccan railway on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

A railside lumberyard

A Moroccan lumberyard by the railway on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Moroccan lumberjack at rest?

Following the coastline for sometime provided pleasant horizon views, passing through towns and cities including the industrial port of Casa de Voyages and several other large cities. Children were playing in fields and locals working or just chilling under the shade of the olive trees and shrubs.

A Moroccan railway station on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Slow pace at a Moroccan station

In contrast to the well-kept streets of the tourist areas of Marrakech, around the outskirts of these towns are extremely unkempt. Litter and household rubbish is strewn all over, many of the areas almost resembling open tips.

Livestock and modern technology in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Cows and antennas

Stations and towns pass by without really being recognised or acknowledged, seemingly nondescript and blending into each other however this does not seem relevant; they are a part of the journey.

Railside tenement towns in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Life alongside the railway lines

There are countless canvas tents along the route, not in the grand ‘Bedouin’ style from the sets of movies but tents barely large enough for two people. They are however home to people; there are even whole villages, some over a hundred tents in size.

Rolling stock in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Railway sidings

My companions left one at a time, for a short period I was alone until a gentleman named Hassan joined me. He spoke excellent English and we conversed awhile, both being ex-military we had something in common. Providing some great tips about everything from taxi fares to eating in the medina it was a very useful encounter.

Returning sardine class

There was not a compartment available on the train for the return journey as it was even busier. Settling down in a seat in a normal carriage had advantages however. There was hardly a free seat in the house. People returning from visiting relatives, shopping trips to the major cities, excited children travelling with their parents or bored, blasé teenagers wishing they were there already.

Railside tents in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

A life under canvas

It would’ve been great to have been able to take some photographs on the train, however as the locals are a little inconsistent regarding this unless money changes hands, it was not possible.

Railside motorway in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

A Moroccan motorway at nightime

The cities at either end of this journey are amazing experiences; the train stations are even extremely impressive but in the end just making the journey is special.

What are your experiences of train travel, do you prefer it to flying or are you a road trip kind of traveller? What about the difficulties of taking photographs from a moving train, composition, avoiding reflections getting a sharp image, any tips to share?

 Orange trees and trains in Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Orange tree on the platform of Fes station

Fes railway station, Moroccco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Inside Fes station


Comments 16

  1. John

    Iain, you have more content in your photo essay than some of my full posts. I could see myself crossing over to Morocco from Southern Spain if I ever find myself there. Looks fascinating.

    1. Post

      Haha thanks John, hey what can I say, you know me cannot keep my mouth shut have to say something! I can definitely recommend it, will go back one day and spend more time seeing more of the place. I was tempted to go to Tangier as really wanted a picture looking across the Straits of Gibraltar looking back towards the ‘Rock’ but time/travel constraints did not allow for it.

  2. Andrew

    Neat look at Morocco. I love trains and use them whenever I can. For a while it was because I totally refused to fly. Now I do fly and will not likely choose the 24 hours trips like I once did, I still have some great memories of extended train trips.

    1. Post

      Thank you Andrew, I think it is just about travelling whichever way suits best at the time, there are some extremely long train and even roadtrips I would like to take. I would not discount travelling by cargo ship if it made sense will fly if it is the only way, which unfortunately it often is. Appreciate your point of view.

  3. Cathy Sweeney

    Trains are a wonderful way to travel. Your experience in Morocco sounds amazing. Really enjoyed reading about it and seeing your photos.

    I love train travel, but I’m also a road trip person. Well, I guess I like hopping on jets, too. Nice to have variety!

    1. Post

      Thank you Cathy and totally agree the best option is to make use of whatever transportation is available and most suitable for your journey.

  4. Stefano Pedroni

    Great post Iain, Morocco is definetly one of my favourite contries, the variety of landscape in this country is just incredible. My latest trip there was back in ’98, on the way to Mauritania. In 4 weeks we experienced a maximum temperature of over 40 degrees celcius and a minimum of below zero in the Atlas, we actually woke up with the tents covered with snow!
    About trains what can I say, yes of course I prefer it to airplanes, if I just had the time, trains would be my only mean of transport. The greatest difference, when one travels with train, is that you actually have the time to assimilate you are going somewhere different. The landscape, the temperature, the people, the time, everithing changes gradually, and gives the time to your brain to assimilate what you are doing and where you are going in a more “natural” way. Sometimes travelling with planes, especially on intercontinental flights, makes me feel like I’ve been on a time capsule and… just doesn’t give me that amazing feeling, if you know what i mean.
    Photographing from trains is really nice but can be tricky, because of the train motion. My suggestion is, shoot fast if you can, 1/500s or above if possible, to freeze the subject. Also including part of the train or other people phothographing like you from the windows, can be creative and add an extra touch to your pics. If you feel like experimenting you can try slow shutter speed like 1/20s or less and create motion pics, just try and have fun!!

    1. Post

      Cool Stefano, I loved the time I spent over there and certainly was not long enough for me, so yet another country that needs to be revisited one day. i hear what you are saying about train travel too, getting on a plane for 20 hours and stepping off in totally different country and climate just is not the same. Gazing out of a train window and watching the country or countries you are travelling through and the scenery change accordingly is far superior. There is a place and time for both but it just feels more like a journey, an adventure rather than watching the film on offer on a plane.

      I didn’t actually use that fast a shutter speed as usually took the images when slowing down going through stations as these also provided the most interesting images anyway. As mentioned taking pics on the train was probably a no no as you are aware, but agree would provide some additional interest and creativity to the shots. Nobody else had a camera out and I actually recieved quite a few ‘strange’ looks. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Breadbutterly

    I am always a fan of travel by land. I think the experience and the sense of adventure is different. Not to mentioned behind the scene view from touristy area. However it takes much time. My style is going by land and return by plane. Great photos by the way. 😉

    1. Post

      I appreciate hearing how other people enjoy travelling, their reasons for doing so and their preferences. I am glad you like the photos.

    1. Post

      Really glad you liked it Aaron, it was a great journey and so much to get some worthy images of along the way, the only downside was not being able to get a few pics of passengers on the train itself but maybe that would have been greedy.

  6. Lisa @chickybus

    Great job on this…love how it turned out! When I’ve taken shots from a train, I’ve had a few problems, depending on the speed of the train and how clean the windows were. I don’t have a polarizer (does that help to avoid glare?), but I do know you need a fast shutter. Any other tips?

    1. Post

      Hey Lisa glad you liked it, yes a fast shutter speed will be needed or wait until the train is moving slowly or stopped obviously. I find the best way to avoid the galre is to place the lens right up to the window this should prevent any possible reflections. A polariser is a really handy filter though, it will reduce reflections from water, foliage etc and also when used correctly will bring out the blue in the sky. Good luck

  7. NvGtravels

    You’re preaching to the converted when it comes to travelling by train. I find it exciting as a photographer – all that time spent staring out the window and you never know when a magic opportunity is going to come up. I’ve just looked out some of my photos taken in India from the trains – no problems with taking photos through glass there – travelling 2nd or 3rd class you can open the windows.

    1. Post

      It sounds like I will have to read your photo essay, my own images for India are all on slide/film so will have to live it online through yours. Travelling by train is so much more engaging, it actually feels like a journey as opposed to flying which is really just about getting to the destination. Thanks for commenting.

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