Personal Project; Taking (Through) Panes; By Bus, By Window, By Camera Page 2

Taking pictures through bus, train, office, and hotel windows, I explained to Alvarez, is not that big a deal and that I had been doing it for years. I told him that, generally, the main thing to do is to look through the camera's viewfinder as you look at your subject through the window. If you don't see any reflections, any ghost-like images anywhere in the viewfinder, the odds are that you won't find any in your photographs.

Women wait for local bus. Acapulco, Mexico.

If there is a smudge on the window, wipe it away, but even if you can't, you'll generally be okay if it's not there in globs. Open the window when you can; sit in the rear of the bus. If it's okay with your fellow riders, open the window.

If you're in a glass and steel skyscraper and you're waiting for the elevator and looking through a window at a spectacular scene, put your camera lens directly on the windowpane and fire away. The pictures will look just as if you were standing outside.

There's another way of photographing through windows, though it sounds a bit weird. Weird it may be, but many pros have employed the technique for years. It's simple and it doesn't cost much. Buy a toilet plunger and cut away as much of it that will allow you to fit your camera's lens into it, and you will never have any problems with reflections while shooting through windows and glass surfaces. If the diameter of the lens you are using is small enough, you may be able to get a rubberized lens hood that will turn the same trick. Using either of these two methods totally avoids any chance of scratching the window or glass.

And what do you do when you want to photograph a fabulous twilight or nighttime skyline and the windows in the hotel or office building don't open and the hotel/office manager won't let you use a room with an accessible balcony? It's simple enough. Put your camera on a tripod. Set it on Manual and set the exposure. Then set the self-timer to go off at about 10 seconds after you press the shutter release button. Doing that will give you enough time to walk over to the main light switch to turn off all the lights and walk back to your camera. Use your shutter speed controls to bracket exposures.

Many Tarahumara indians live in caves or shelters such as these. Chihuahua, Mexico.

The same basic technique can be used if you want to take pictures of a museum treasure that's tucked under a glass case. The simple trick here is simply putting your camera's lens directly on the case. The not so simple trick about this is getting museum permission. But it never hurts to ask.

For me, shooting through a museum case or the window of a high hotel room isn't that big a deal. The bigger deal, for me, is riding a bus, scanning the changing landscape, observing the passing scene, absorbing the exhilarating freshness of new environments, and sometimes being almost close enough to reach out and shake a hand. You might just be pleasantly surprised and satisfied at how photographing through windows can help you open new vistas in your photography.

John Neubauer's photography has been published in books, magazines, and corporate publications all over the world. He is a winner of the coveted Lente de Plata, Mexico's highest award for photography. He can be reached via e-mail at His website is