The art of transit: A call for more transportation photos! Hint: your phone is a good camera, too!

A photo taken in the Washington D.C. subway using the Instagram app for the iPhone. Photo by Keith Jenkins, via Flickr.

We’ve been running our “art of transit” posts for almost a year. The idea is to feature photography that tells the story of transportation here and elsewhere. There are, after all, some beautiful transit systems across the planet that we can look to for inspiration as Metro continues work on fulfilling its Measure R program. And transpo can be very photogenic.

A train station in Brussels taken with the Hipstamatic app. Photo by Ze Valdi, via Flickr

On the local front, I would love to see more local submissions from our readers. I’m a little surprised we don’t receive more, given that so many people these days have cameras as part of their cell phones. Here are two iPhone photos we recently featured on The Source: this image of a woman on the Gold Line and this photo of a Metro bus at night next to a couple of sporty cars.

How to get the most out of your photos? The New York Times’ tech writer David Pogue last week wrote a very good story about some of the many apps available to transform photos taken on the iPhone’s camera into something special. Most of the better apps are free or cheap and can be used to boost colors, change tones to alter the photo’s mood, stitch together panoramas and even do time lapses.

My faves (so far) are Instagram, Camera+, Hipstamatic, Photosynth and Plastic Bullet. Please feel free to recommend and discuss others in the comments section.

All this is a long-winded way of saying please submit some photos! To submit, post them to Metro’s Flickr group, email them to or Tweet them with an #artoftransit hashtag.

And check out a few more phone photos after the jump…

This photo of a bridge over a road was taken with Instagram, with the tilt-shift function applied to make it look like a miniature. Photo by Jorge Gobbi, via Flickr.


The view from a bike in the English countryside using the iPhone's Hipstermatic app. Photo by abrinsky, via Flickr.

A panorama stitched together using 44 iPhone photos at the Fulton Street subway stop in New York. I'm not sure how it was done, but I've had good luck with the free Photosynth app for the iPhone. Photo by pOps Harlow, via Flickr.

I took this one while riding shotgun last Saturday evening on the northbound 110 freeway in downtown L.A. I used the Instagram app's tilt-shift function. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

8 replies

  1. Spokker,

    I truly understand that taking photos are not illegal, but you have to realize cops can literally detain and arrest me for anything they can concoct with at the spur of the moment. “Resisting arrest,” “failure to comply to a peace officer,” “disturbing the peace,” whatever.

    And you know what, my life is busy enough as it is to avoid any confrontation, law fees, going to court, and the like.

    Sure, if I had gazillion dollars and had all the free time in the world I wouldn’t mind going to court but I don’t. Taking photos just so Metro can show pictures ain’t worth my time and hassle to go through all that headache. Don’t want to be fired from my job just so I can stand up for my rights and go to court, and get bankrupted by lawyers in legal fees just to prove my point you know?

    Instead, if Metro are the ones that wants people to submit their photos, they should be the ones responsible to re-train their staff and officers know that taking photos is not illegal and is encouraged. Put up an ad in the stations that says “submit photos to” with a QR code barcode or something so we can point to that ad when an officer comes up and threatens us.

    Otherwise, no one’s gonna do it because they all think it’s illegal. Just as that officer who threatened me said “we live in a post 9-11 world.”

  2. It appears that I have slipped up yet again. I meant to say, “If photography were illegal, and it isn’t”

    I lament the lack of an edit feature.

  3. Nobody can tell you to delete your photographs except a judge.

    If photography were legal, and it isn’t, why would the police tell you to delete evidence of a crime? The logic never fails to fail.

    But I must stress that Metro has no prohibition against photography. They simply ask that you not use tripods that people might trip on and not to trespass onto the tracks or whatever.

    You can shoot all the photos you want on platforms and of buses and anything else as long as you are in a public area, and platforms are public.

    If police detain you for photography and order you to delete your photos, politely decline. If you are arrested, retain a lawyer if you can afford it. Your case is a slam dunk.

    As always, be polite at all times. If they taser you or beat you, that’s just more evidence against them.

  4. I tried to take a photo of the Red Line the last time, but an officer ran up to me and yelled directly at my face “NO PHOTOGRAPHY!” He then demanded to see the pictures deleted right then and there. There was no use trying to reason with him as he continued on with stuff like “we live in a post 9-11 world” and “it’s against the law here in America” and even threatened me with arrest unless he saw those pictures deleted.

    Never again. If you want photos, tell the officers to stop threatening us.

  5. “At least a pair of news outlets last night were advising anyone who sees someone taking photos in stations to report them to authorities…”

    What new outlets were they? If it was a news story on TV, I’d like to try to find a video of the story.

  6. Clear example of one hand not talking with the other.

    Metro, the reason why you receive so few photos is because many Americans remember the The Stephen Colbert Report episode where one man was arrested for taking photos of a train…for an Amtrak photo contest.

    You have law enforcement, train and security officials who go bat-**** insane about “security risk” or “terrorist threat” etc. etc. that taking photos are not allowed.

    I’d submit my photos if you start doing your part to let security officials know that it’s not illegal and that Metro photography is encouraged for this website. Otherwise, I’m not risking myself wasting my previous time being detained, and arrested just so I can submit a photo to you guys.

  7. I was actually just going to post what Spokker mentioned above. At least a pair of news outlets last night were advising anyone who sees someone taking photos in stations to report them to authorities…

  8. “I’m a little surprised we don’t receive more”

    Everyday riders are afraid of whipping out their cameras on transit these days. Many believe it is illegal to do so because of the enforcement against photography across the country by private security and police.

    I know my rights but when I go to take pictures on transit I have to prepare myself mentally for it. If I’m not prepared, I don’t shoot photos for fear of being harassed.

    If you truly want to advance the art of transit or rail photography, you must convince riders that is it okay to take photographs on public transportation.