Thursday 4 December 2014

A trip to Blackpool

A bit of a hectic month, November... still, better late than never, an update featuring a combined photography trip and family visit to Blackpool.  We like doing abstract shoots during the illuminations, but didn't get chance last year.  We arrived just before sunset, and got a few shoots around Fleetwood, then it was down to Bispham to get a tram to pleasure beach.
It was our first ride on the nice new trams, which admittedly lack the character of the older ones, but are quicker and rather more comfortable.
We got off at Pleasure Beach, and started a stroll along the promenade.  Amy was mainly taking some new shots for her long-running "Light Trails" project, meanwhile I was mainly taking shots of the trams passing.  We had three cameras with us, the trusty D90, the older D70, and the Cannon 350.  The Cannon though packed-in within minutes due to a persistent lens fault which needs mending.  The D70 likewise was unable to cope and was sidelined in favour of sharing the D90... we really need to upgrade our kit for location shoots.
It was nice to see a couple of the older trams still in service on heritage tours.



We ended up playing with the settings a bit, and just shooting some very experimental images.



It was a good night, and we both got a load of shots we were happy with.  It also means Amy can update her "Light Trails" body of work with some better-quality versions of images she'd shot previously.  All in all, a successful trip.




Tuesday 4 November 2014

Worth Valley Railway by night...


Another few weeks away from the blog, but we've both been up to some photography projects recently.  First up, one of mine (Bens).
Above and below are a couple of shots taken during the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Steam Gala back in October.  With the opportunity of a train coming through after dark, I headed out into the woods near the house to try and get an abstract shot.  I've done a few night shots of static steam locos in sheds and stations over the years, but never done a properly abstract shot of a moving train for real (I have done it with miniatures before though).  The last time I tried was a couple of years ago, when I was chased off by a Poacher in the woods near Oxenhope.  A second attempt at the same location saw me falling foul of the police anti-poaching unit, so I gave up until recently.

The shot of "Wells" turned out surprisingly well, and I decided to try and spin it out into a wider project.  The main idea is to do photos in the winter of electric trains on the main line railways, but the combinations of the clocks moving and a weekend of night-services on the Worth Valley in connection with their beer festival led me to try and get some night shots near the house.

The above location is about five minutes from the house, and an area I wouldn't usually go into during the day as its a bit of a haunt for the local troublemakers.  I was feeling a little cavalier though for these shoots, and the desire to get a nice photo overrode the concerns.  The intention was to photograph steam services, but the first night would just see the class 101 DMU trundling back and forth.  I rather like this unit though, and it would give me chance to try out a couple of locations and angles.

I was planning to have the underlit-steam from the locomotives adding drama to the picture for the steam shots, so for this shoot with a diesel, I thought I'd include the river as a feature, so the reflections would create a bit more visual interest.  Wellies on, and a tripod on its lowest setting right on the river bank, and the train rolled past right on time.
The images have been tweaked only very slightly; the D90 copes very well with night shots, and I did most of the messing around in-camera, playing with the different settings.

Suitably pleased with the shots, I headed back out late the next night to the same spot, this time with the tripod in the shallows, and me up to my shins in the river Worth, with the camera round my neck to keep it safe.  Not a very comfortable pose, but essential to preserving the camera in case the tripod fell over.
The decision to paddle in the river came about because of the annoying atmospheric conditions; the end of October turned out to have some of the warmest days on record, so no dramatic exhaust effects from the steam locos...

...the engine, WD 90733, was producing some pretty good sparks though.

Having pretty much exhausted the easily-accessible spots near the house, I relocated to an old haunt of mine, Mytholmes Tunnel near Haworth, as its a rising curve (the locos are working hard), the tunnel creates a good blast of steam, and there is a public footpath providing a superb vantage point with a car park about a minute away.  In daylight, it looks like this:
By night, its like this:
A bit creepier, no ambient light, but a little too alarmingly near to civilisation and people walking big dogs in the dark to feel totally relaxed.  Still, at least in the night air, it was possible to hear the train coming.

And blimey, did it ever look dramatic; no steam to speak of, but an awful lot of sparks.

Knowing the train would be returning, cruising downhill towards Keighley, I wanted to try and get a high-angle shot, so popped back in the car and headed for the other end of the tunnel, where a path (along an old lane, now too rutted to be driven along) climbs the hill over the railway.  And I have never seen a bigger display of curtain-twitching than I got from the residents from the houses at the bottom of the hill, though I cant blame them really.  There is a large poaching problem hereabouts, and  I suspect any young male with a long concealed object in a case on his back (in this case the tripod) skulking around in the dark would look suspect.  I'm probably on the local Neighbourhood Watch page by now...

After much stumbling around in the dark, I followed what looked like a footpath, which went up through the trees off the lane, and ended up above the tunnel, having nearly ended up in a farmers field.  Suspecting that sitting in said field would be a quick way to get threatened with a shotgun, I moved and found a good vantage point above the tunnel portal.

I'd taken so long to get there I only just got the camera set up in time, but got a couple of shots.


I was a bit too uncomfortable to hang around for the train coming back, facing the right way, figuring that the wary local residents who'd watched me climbing up the hill wouldn't be fond of the idea of me hanging around, and though it wasn't cold, it did start to rain, so I bailed.  I was a bit annoyed I hadn't managed to get the shot though, but there was no other night the trains would be running, or so I thought.
The following week though was the Halloween special trains, and having studied the timetable, I realised this would be the only chance before Christmas to get the night shot of a train climbing towards the tunnel, so I went out for the last train of the night.
Immediately though it all went wrong; I attracted even more suspect looks off the same neighbours, got lost, and it took ages to find the location in the dark with a faulty torch.  No sign of the train, and the display on the back of the camera didn't seem to be working properly.  Still, I got a couple of shots of airliners banking towards Leeds-Bradford Airport before I realised how low the battery was getting.

Finally, along came the train, and what a waste of time it was.  The warmest Halloween on record meant again, no dramatic steam.  And to top it off, because it was the Halloween train, they had of course dimmed all the carriage lights to make it more dramatic, so whilst it sounded fantastic, there was no trail of moving light as I'd seen before.  On the way down the hill, a woman by the stables hid and watched me, so any lingering doubts I had that the neighbourhood watch might be looking for me pretty much disappeared.... 
Finally, when I got the pics uploaded at home, I spotted that the camera couldn't focus for some reason, despite using the same settings as before, so everything was blurred anyway.
So the shoot ended with something of a whimper rather than a bang, but I'm very happy with some of the images I got earlier on.  Hopefully, with the nights properly drawing-in now, I can get a few more shots out on the mainline railways, and spin it out further into a bigger project.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Home Was... in Sheffield

Just a quick post to say that yesterday, the "Home is..." show came down.  It was a good experience for us, not just having an exhibition after a few years of only contributing to group events  or open calls, but also in having a big project to focus on again, with a deadline.
With the props and set back home, and a nice body of work built up to form the bulk of the series, we will be shortly commencing with Phase Two, with some more complex location shoots whilst Ben has some extra time-off over the winter.  A lot of the ideas and locations we scouted were unsuitable within the limited timescale before the exhibition, but we have the chance now, and the enthusiasm to keep shooting pics.
A big thanks then to Karen, Graham, and everyone else at Cupola Contemporary Art in Sheffield for giving us the chance to develop "Home is..." from the initial concept art, and to exhibit the resulting project.  And thanks of course for everyone else who assisted with Phase One, for modelling, for lending us props, for helping us on location, and for letting us use their country homes, railway stations, etc, for our shoots.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Keighley Abstract Landscapes

Going back a month to September, and a little set of pictures that we didn't get round to posting.  On the walk to work, I (Ben) thought I'd try for a quick snap of a KWVR train, at a location I discovered last year.  The light wasn't brilliant though, and confused the camera quite badly, and I didn't get the shot I wanted.
On the walk back though, I thought I'd make the most of the weird light, and take some abstract, long-exposure images, something I like to do anyway.  So in the alleyway alongside an old factory, I tried some zoom, long exposure shots, with some not too bad results.
The diesel was coming back, so I relocated to another spot a little further down-river, with a photogenic bit of old industry.  Again, weird lighting was mucking up the camera, and the shot of the train was uselessly blurred.
However, with the river low, it seemed a good opportunity to have a bit more of a mess around with zooming and exposure times...

...not to mention reflections and odd orientations.  I quite like messing around with abstract photographs when bored, and this passed ten minutes on the walk to work.  Something a little more focussed, thematically speaking, in the next post.