Photographing every day is a sure way to maintain a keen photographic eye. It's not always possible of course, but when I can, I do. Whether that's with my iPhone or my Olympus cameras. Recently I've found a new way to make photographs of interesting subjects every single day...
A few months back I started to commute on the train to my day job rather than driving. It gives me time to be productive on the journey and I also get a bit of a walk each day as well. Being a photographer I tend to observe and watch people and on the train you tend to see some real characters and some interesting faces. One thing I noticed though, particularly on the 7am train, is that a lot of people use their commute to get a little extra sleep. I found (and still do) find this fascinating: people are commuting to work so early in the day that they've become accustomed to sleeping on the train as part of their routine! They're usually in such a deep sleep that the sound of the train screeching to a halt, the conversations of people on their phones and the loud 'Beep, beep, beep!' of the opening doors at each and every stop don't even wake them!
So, I started to photograph these people as they slept on the train. At first it was a bit of fun, but I've now developed quite the body of work and I like to imagine what it is that each person does and what their day has been like that means they're in such need of that extra sleep! Not all of the sleepers in this series are early morning snoozers though, some of these are on the return commute in the evening:
The response to the photographs as a collection was very positive indeed. I actually expected something of a negative response to the work, imagining people would tell me that it was an invasion of privacy. However the response was 100% positive with people telling me was fantastic.
The Method of Capturing Sleeping Commuters
Photographing the sleeping commuters isn't actually as hard as you'd think and you really don't have to be as sneaky or ninja-like as you may imagine. At first I was of course 'shooting from the hip' or shooting blind by looking one way whilst my iPhone was pointed at my subject. My fear was that a sleeper would open their eyes and we'd both be shocked: me because I've just been caught photographing someone sleeping, and them because they're processing why it is some guy has an iPhone pointed at them whilst they slept!
But now, after having made a fair few of these photographs (and making them every day) I've developed a few techniques and methods (and a lot of confidence) to simply photograph these sleeping commuters in a way that produces a better photograph.
For example I have a method where I yawn and stretch with my phone in a position where I can photograph a sleeping commuter next to an awake commuter without arousing suspicion:
At 7am I would probably gauge that about 3 / 10 people are asleep. On each carriage I can find at least one person 'in the land of nod'. Sometimes, I'll come across a few people sat next to one another all asleep at the same time!
Often though, I'll roam a up or down a few carriages to make sure i get a few sleeping people for the gallery.
The Editing Process
All photographs are made on the iPhone 5s or 6 Plus and then edited directly in Snapseed. If you're interested about the settings I apply, you can watch this video I made on using Snapseed to edit iPhone photographs. None of the images in the gallery have touched Lightroom or Photoshop in anyway.
#SleepingCommuters on Steller
Keep up to date with #sleepingcommuters
I'm going to be posting a sleeping commuter to my gallery every week day. I've become that confident that I'm going to photograph at least one or two sleepers every day that I think I can build up enough of an archive to post every Monday to Friday (the days I commute). I do move around the carriages to get a few more. My commute is only a 15 minute train ride, but that's enough to go through 3 or 4 carriages to find people in a state of slumber and get a photograph. I then edit the photograph and email the image directly in to the gallery and upload to Instagram.
The best way to keep up to date with the sleeping commuters gallery is to follow me over on Instagram at @RammellPhoto and to check back on the gallery each morning. I make use of the hash tag '#sleepingcommuters' on each post.
I hope you enjoy the body of work and keep up to date with each new sleeper. I welcome you comments and thoughts below on the images and also your thoughts about what it is I'm doing - is this an invasion of privacy or is this perfectly acceptable?